We spend close to two-thirds of our lives at work, which means that many of us spend that time exerting little energy beyond frenzied fingers typing on a keyboard.

Now, think about all of your other seated activities every day — eating meals, commuting, playing Candy Crush, watching television — and you’ll notice that you’re not as physically active as you may think.

According to a recent survey conducted by Ergotron, Americans spend 13 hours with their behinds glued to a chair. Additionally, those of us who get a full eight hours of sleep (which is good) can figure that about 21 hours of the day, or nearly 90% of them, are spent in a sedentary (seated or sleeping) environment.

Finding a way to fit the rest of your life into the final three free hours of the day after you leave work isn’t always easy. Factor in kids, errands and other life distractions, and there may only be minutes left to jam in physical activity.

But you can find a hidden solution behind a door labeled “Stairs” in your office building.

Step up to Improve Your Health

Taking the stairs in your office can help reduce stress, increase cardiovascular fitness, improve muscle endurance, and strengthen the part of the body you so often find connected to the chair — the gluteal muscles.

It can also save time. Taking the stairs is almost always quicker than the elevator up to about five floors, which can make your work day more efficient and help you make steps toward meeting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommended 30 minutes of daily physical activity for adults.

As You Step up, Your Weight Goes Down

Here are some reasons why spending a few minutes each day in the stairwell can help you maintain or reduce your body weight:

  • While climbing stairs, you’re burning an average of 10 calories a minute. That’s 7x more calories a minute than you burn standing in an elevator.
  • You burn more calories climbing stairs in high heels. (Ladies, you have the advantage if you’re trying to lose more weight than your male co-workers!)
  • If you climb two flights of stairs each work day, you can burn up to 1,000 calories in a year.

Wondering exactly how many calories you can burn climbing stairs where you work? MyFitnessPal’s exercise calculator computes the number of calories burned based on the duration of several activities and your body weight.

Step up to a Longer, Healthier Life

Opening the stairwell door next to the elevators — instead of going into the elevator — provides health benefits beyond weight loss, including:

  • Improved levels of HDL cholesterol (the “good” kind) and lower amounts of LDL cholesterol (the “bad” kind).
  • Improved bone density, which helps prevent osteoporosis.
  • Living longer if you climb more than 55 flights per week.
  • Increased leg power, which may reduce the risk of injury from falls as you age.

If you have an iPhone with iOS8 or higher, the Health app will track how many flights of stairs you climb. The app runs continuously in the background on your phone, so you don’t have to remember to turn it on or off to collect movement data. Along with the number of flights climbed, the app also tracks your number of steps walked and distance traveled.

Stepping up Is Convenient

If you’re not completely sold on the health benefits associated with taking the stairs, here are a few more reasons to give it a shot:

  • Go green. When you take the stairs, the only energy used is your body’s own. You save electricity and reap the benefits of the movement at the same time.
  • Save time. A recent study shows that taking the stairs saves close to 24 seconds of travel time per floor.
  • Spend less time “working out.” Taking the stairs a few times throughout the day shaves minutes off the time you’ll need to spend at the gym to achieve 30 minutes of activity.
Highmark stairwell

The stairwells in Highmark’s Pittsburgh offices were recently renovated to encourage employees to take the stairs instead of the elevators.

Encouraging Employees to Take the Stairs

As a national health care leader, Highmark has many incentives in place to help employees lead healthy lifestyles.

The stairwells in our Pittsburgh headquarters, for instance, were recently revamped with visuals to motivate more employees to reap the health benefits associated with taking the stairs.

Through the “StairWELL 2 Health” campaign, Highmark has brightened the stairwells by painting each stair with a colorful, inspiring message, such as “Don’t Give Up!” and “Keep moving forward,” to motivate staff to continue to the next flight.

Highmark stairwell wall

As part of “StairWELL 2 Health,” motivational messages were added to the stairwells in Highmark’s Pittsburgh offices.