Take the stairs instead of the elevators — and you’ll dramatically increase your fitness levels! That’s the conclusion of a recent Swiss study in which 69 university employees were banned from using elevators for three months at work. At the outset, this group could be considered couch potatoes (less than two hours of exercise a week). During the course of the experiment, they nearly quadrupled their stair use — to an average of 23 flights climbed and descended a day.

The result? A nearly 9% increase in aerobic capacity, which translates into a 15% drop in the chances of premature death. As the workers climbed up, their heart disease indicators crept down. Waist and fat mass shrunk nearly 2%; blood pressure dropped 2.3% and LDL (bad) cholesterol decreased almost 4%. Impressive results, particularly as they were achieved so inexpensively (in fact, think of the energy savings from elevator disuse!).

Dole Food Company posted plaques in their Westlake Village, California, headquarters encouraging employees to take the stairs. The signs are part of the Dole Nutrition Institute’s award-winning Dole Employee Wellness program, which includes a model, vegetarian-friendly cafeteria, on-site fitness classes, e-mail signatures, healthy “hold” music and, of course, the Dole Nutrition News.

 Published April 1, 2009