New app hopes to inspire workers to take the stairs

The UAE's office workers are encouraged to use high rise towers as a ready-made gym.

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DUBAI // Office workers are being encouraged to use the UAE’s high-rise buildings as a ready-made gym to help them take the first steps towards a healthier lifestyle, literally.

Health and technology company StepJockey hopes to inspire people to switch from taking the lift to the office in favour of burning extra calories by walking a few flights of stairs in their building instead.

The company is working with Dubai’s education regulator, the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA), to install “smart signs” in Arabic in stairwells at its headquarters in Dubai International Academic City to encourage staff.

The signs are connected to a smartphone app that displays the number of calories burnt with each flight taken, as well as motivational health messages.

Helen Nuki, the company’s founder, said the towers of the UAE are a “natural gym” and perfect for people who do not have time to work out or who just do not like gyms.

“It is about looking at the positives and promoting fitness for everyone, a little bit at a time. We tell people how many calories are in food but we don’t tell them where they can burn them off. Too many workplace health interventions, gyms, football competitions, appeal mainly to those who are already fit.

“It’s something you can do without having to involve others if you are a bit shy about your health. It’s something you can build into your working day if you are very busy.”

In UK trials involving more than 250,000 stair/lift journeys, stair climbing increased by up to 29 per cent in buildings equipped with the smart signs. When office workers were able to track their climbs, stair use jumped by more than 500 per cent.

Hind Al Mualla, chief of engagement at KHDA said: “KHDA is delighted to develop the first full set of smart-stair prompts in Arabic. We place great importance on wellness at KHDA, introducing numerous healthy initiatives for our staff. We believe that health and wellbeing are a vital part of happiness. It’s our goal to provide a positive environment for employees.”

Mrs Nuki said the system differed from a pedometer, which measures how many steps a person takes. “We love pedometers but, by definition, you have already taken the decision to get fit if you have one. This is about engaging with the vast majority – those who have not taken that important decision yet.

“By labelling the physical environment for calorie burn, it positively influences all those who pass our signs, consciously or otherwise. That’s why when you put the smart signs in a building, stair use suddenly jumps.”