‘Take the Stairs’ campaign challenges SMDC workforce

By Jason Cutshaw, USASMDCMarch 30, 2023

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REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. – A new initiative designed to encourage team members to use their own energy to help save energy is beginning at the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command.

The “Take the Stairs” campaign, beginning March 29, is designed to promote employee health and supports the Army Climate Change Implementation Plan at the command’s Redstone Arsenal headquarters. The initiative also includes several incentives to encourage participation.

“The SMDC team is well aware of the command team’s ‘People First’ perspective and the commanding general’s priorities when it comes to our overall welfare,” said Richard P. De Fatta, USASMDC deputy to the commander. “‘Take the Stairs’ is really just a reminder to all of the added benefit a little physical exercise can provide. I always kid folks, including myself, about using the elevator rather than one or two flights of stairs when navigating the building. The stairwell initiative reminds our team mates that we have their well-being in mind.”

The command’s Redstone Arsenal headquarters has placed motivational artwork in Stairwell B to promote employee health and well-being as well as energy saving benefits.

The primary goals of the initiative are to increase levels of physical activity among employees while increasing energy savings that benefit sustainability via a decrease use of elevators.

According to the Canadian Medical Association, taking stairs instead of an elevator can save approximately 15 minutes each workday. Also, physical activity can boost mental abilities such as enhanced creativity, quicker learning, sharper memory, and improved concentration.

“Office life is, by its nature, sedentary,” De Fatta said. “Integrating moderate exercise between meetings and computer time is highly beneficial, and intensity can be varied in accordance with individual physical abilities. The result is a more alert, healthy, and hopefully, happy SMDC team. I’d add and suggest that getting out from behind our desks and physically visiting or meeting our team mates creates an atmosphere that is engaging and interactive rather than stale and mechanically dependent on IT resources.

“The SMDC team really cares,” he added. “The stairwell initiative is a bit tongue-in-cheek, but shows we have our SMDC teammate’s well-being in mind as we conduct the space and missile defense mission for the U.S. Army.”

John Schocke, USASMDC deputy chief of staff, said the command is ensuring stairwells are utilized throughout the day by making low-cost changes such as brighter lighting and motivational signage to help team members be active.

“We continue to look for new opportunities to implement ‘People First’ initiatives to improve the health and welfare of our teammates,” Schocke said. “Any SMDC teammates, Soldiers or civilians, are encouraged to participate. We look forward to seeing more folks in the stairs.”

Research shows that using the stairs regularly also has health benefits such as helping reduce an individual’s risk of heart disease, stroke and osteoporosis.

According to Duke University Human Resources, stair climbing can be accumulated across the course of the day, making a major contribution to the recommended 30 minutes of daily physical activity. It added that climbing two flights of stairs per day can lead to a 6-pound weight loss over a year, and stair climbing can help build and maintain healthy bones, muscles and joints.

“Stair climbing has been associated with higher peak volume of oxygen consumption, lower blood pressure, improved fitness, and is also timesaving, compared to taking the elevator,” said Col. Patrick T. Birchfield, USASMDC command surgeon. “This isn’t just about work. Physical activity can make your daily life better. It improves your mood, focus, and sleep. Healthier people are more relaxed, creative, and productive, both at work and around the home. While SMDC benefits from energized and creative team members, your family benefits from a calmer and happier family member.

“Little efforts like taking the stairs are part of a larger healthy lifestyle,” he added. “Other good practices include parking as far away as practicable and making healthier food choices. Sleep hygiene is important too. All these things contribute to preventing or controlling diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure and heart disease.”

Besides the health benefits, increased stairwell use can also mean fewer elevator trips, which conserves energy and reduces wear and tear on elevators while also scaling back the risk of elevator-related injuries. As taking the stairs is often faster than waiting on an elevator, encouraging regular use of the stairwells can also help in a fire or other disaster, as employees become more familiar with emergency exits and stairwells become better maintained.

“If you are concerned about the environment, any time you can take the stairs over the elevator, especially if you are the sole rider, you reduce the demand for energy and save the Army funds,” said David C. Hasley, Environmental Division chief, USASMDC deputy chief of staff, engineer. “By skipping the elevator, you could save up to 33 pounds of CO2 a month. Using the stairs reduces electricity use and supports organizational commitments to environmental sustainability.

“By climbing a flight of stairs, your body releases endorphins, making you feel happy and calm as well as more focused in achieving your goals,” he added. “From an Army perspective, promoting physical activity is known to improve organization image and reputation, boost staff morale, improve staff attitude toward their employer and can reduce absenteeism.”

Hasley said commercial office buildings in general account for up to 40 percent of primary energy usage. Many small measures can add up over time and help reduce overall energy consumption. Office workers typically spend most of their time in an inactive state, so taking the stairs is a great way to get in a few minutes of exercise throughout the day.

He added a typical hydraulic elevator in a three-story office building uses 3,800 kilowatt-hours per year, or about as much as the average American home uses in four months. Across the world, elevators transport over one billion people each day and can account for up to 10 percent of a building’s energy consumption.

“As the number of stories in a building increases, so does its energy use related to elevator usage and the potential energy and cost saving associated with stairwell use,” Hasley said. “The stairwell initiative is fairly inexpensive, yet can provide countless benefits in the areas of energy savings, costs savings, physical and mental health, and alignment with Army goals.”