The sedentary nature of our society is a key contributor to the endemic of obesity that we face today.  In North America especially, every aspect of our daily life encourages a maximum time efficiency, minimum effort approach.  Cities are engineered for optimum motorized traffic flow with little to no regard for cyclists; many streets have sidewalks only on one side, if at all; elevators and escalators abound.  Hats off to a new apartment building in the Bronx that is designed to promote an active home lifestyle!

The Melody apartment complex, unveiled for the first time earlier this week and due to be inhabited this summer, is a 63 unit complex with several features designed to increase calorie burn.  The stairwell is a simple, yet important feature of this building.  Decorated with bright colors and inviting artwork, they have even installed speakers spouting funky jazz music (yes – dance your way home!).  The stairs are a central and prominent feature, whereas the single elevator is available, but much more subtly placed, and sans music.

I take a moment to contrast this with my own condo complex: several elevators centrally placed, and it’s not even possible to use the stairs to go upward upon entry into the building – the stairs are emergency exit only, with a one way door that locks from the outside.

I pause for another moment as a recollection of a recent hotel stay flits through my mind: a lavishly decorated elevator with thickly cushioned walls to lean against, and a flat screen TV built into the wall to keep me rooted to the spot!  I looked for the stairs for a while, but I couldn’t find them.

There is also a beautiful backyard with a collection of brightly colored exercise equipment for adults, and climbing equipment for children.  Having parent and child exercise facilities in one place makes it easier for all family members to get exercise simultaneously, and the central location facilitates the easy meeting of friends to get in a workout together – support and group activity promotes dedication to an ongoing exercise program.  For rainy days, there is also an indoor gym with big windows to allow lots of natural lighting and keep energy levels high.

Apartments in this complex are reasonably priced between about $105,000-220,000 USD, and is the first building to be designed in concert with suggestions from New York City’s Active Design Guidelines, which provides a guide for developing buildings with exercise in mind.

While not every apartment complex will have the finances to support gym facilities, putting a few more dollars into the stairwell and placing it/them more centrally is surely affordable for any builder, particularly if costs are cut on the number or luxury of elevators installed.

Simple things with a big impact – now we’re talking.

Dr. Sue © 2011

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