Environment strongly influences our lifestyle choices and our health. In one experiment in a Stockholm subway station, stairs were transformed into piano keys, each playing a note in response to the footstep of a commuter.  A whopping 66% more people than usual opted to take the stairs rather than the escalator once this piano staircase was installed, simply because it was fun and different.  The environment inspired them to do the healthier thing.

In a country with fast food drive-throughs on every corner, a different message is being sent: Eat junk. Eat it often. And don’t even bother to get out of your car to walk inside. Although willpower is important for health, our lifestyle choices are strongly influenced by our surroundings—for instance, simply whether it is easier or more fun to walk or drive. Fast food and car companies work hard to make it convenient to use their products.  If we want healthier communities, shouldn’t we work to make the healthiest choices the easiest ones?  When our environments foster healthy decision-making, it’s a lot easier for us to maintain healthy lifestyles and live healthful, abundant lives.

So how can we recreate our environments into ones that support the healthiest choices? Research suggests that the best way to encourage healthy choices may be to make healthy living easier and more fun. How can we do this? Build buildings with beautiful or fun stairways like this one, spruce up the stairway in your workplace, or design a beautiful walking or bike path in your neighborhood. What could you change in your community to encourage better health habits?


Author: Claire Bailey