#TIL: Fit and Fun: How mobility can promote fitness for commuters

By Sayani Mandal

Way back in 2009, Volkswagen Sweden asked a simple question, “Can we get more people to choose the stairs by making it fun to do?” To understand this, an initiative by Volkswagen called The Fun Theory transformed a plain staircase at the Odenplan subway station in Stockholm, Sweden, next to an escalator.

Pedestrians having ‘fun’ on the Piano staircase in Odenplan, Stockholm

The concept was to convert the subway stairs into a giant “piano”, where each stair produced different musical notes when pressure was applied. The randomised controlled experiment from the video by VW Sweden and ad-agency DDB Stockholm passively persuaded 66 percent more pedestrians to choose the interactive stairs over the escalator.

With traditional advertising and awareness campaigns becoming less effective, the initiative concluded, “Fun can obviously change behaviour for the better” and can help encourage physical fitness. Although this was a small-scale social experiment, it does raise eyebrows on how a car manufacturing company is apparently seen endorsing walking!

Over a decade later, we are witnessing transit agencies trying similar projects for promoting physical activity through mobility. From technological solutions limited to one subway station to individuals monitoring their daily fitness goals via smart gadgets, technology is now synonymous with fitness. With Romania providing a free bus ride for twenty squats to mobile applications giving rewards for cycling in several European cities, mobility has become a medium to make fitness fun.

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Ola’s in-house policy research and social innovation think-tank! Follow for latest mobility insights and conversations. For website, visit https://ola.institute