Capitalizing on Accidental Good Habits

How can elevator maintenance benefit health? It can be a catalyst for healthier habits! As a health promoter, I’m always trying to think of ways to introduce healthier behaviours and contemplating how to move people from pre-contemplation to action. But this morning, I saw how the environment around us can play a role in our individual choices.

Our elevator was broken this morning. I didn’t actually notice right away as I started up the stairway, but what I did notice was two people I didn’t recognize climbing with me. We chatted and one woman kept going to the fifth floor as I headed out at the third. When I got to my floor, I ran into our Building Manager. He explained that the elevator would be fixed by the end of the day and asked how I liked the extra morning exercise.

For me, taking the stairs is part of my regular pattern but I wondered whether the woman from the fifth floor was also a regular stair user.

And that got me thinking, how often do these happenstance introductions to more physical activity or healthy foods at a meeting happen? And how, as health promoters, do we help use those moments of change to support longer term changes?

While the answer is not the same for everyone, the good news is that both employers and governments can help support environments for healthier habits, and that interest in doing so is increasing. Guidelines for healthy meetings, prompts for people to take the stairs, better infrastructure for walking and cycling, better transit routes that start and end with a walk, all of these elements add up in a day, and can help us to make change.

So, while it’s the New Year and people are making resolutions, perhaps as an office, workplace or home we can make some supportive changes ourselves to help those who have tried the stairs for the first time, and might just like it.

Samantha Hartley-Folz
Manager, Policy & Programs
January 2014

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