Recently I found myself in the Atlanta Airport and noticed that much of my time during travel was sedentary. I went from sitting for two hours on a plane, to standing still on a moving walk way, to sitting on a train, to standing still on a escalator, then back to sitting on an airplane for another three hours. This felt very strange to me, living on a college campus, where I spend a good portion of my day walking and biking. Being sedentary I found that I was uncomfortable and frustrated.
This type of sedentary lifestyle accounts for much of the reason most of the United States is overweight or obese according to the World Health Organization (http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs311/en/). But what if the airport was not another sedentary rest stop between two flights, but an active place? If the escalators and moving walk ways were made smaller so that they just carried small carry-on bags, people would then have to walk through the airport and up the stairs. Through a large airport like the Atlanta Airport, that could be a long walk burning calories. This would be a medium-scale application of an exercise choice within an airport.
It seemed to me watching, that the reason people chose escalators was so that they did not have to carry their rolling bags up stairs. Similarly they took moving walkways so they could set down their bags while still heading to their gate. So a solution that would allow for people to set down their bags would be to design the escalators and walkways so that they just carried bags, but the people would keep moving. Target has found a similar solution for their stores with more than one level (http://blogs.palmbeachpost.com/malled/2009/10/27/new-targets-cart-escalator-fascinates-and-occasionally-frustrates/). They have built escalators for shopping carts to go from one level to the other. Though as seen in the video at the bottom of the page, people use escalators on the sides to go up and down. The key change I would make would be to eliminate the escalators entirely forcing someone to use the stairs. But having a mechanical device like the one that Target uses allows for people to get up the stairs without dragging an awkward rolling back up the steps.
On the flat walkways, the incentive I would give to users to move a little faster would involve Frequent Flyer Miles. When someone walks up to one of the bag carriers they would scan their bag tag and their boarding pass. If the traveler makes it to the end of the carrier before their bag, then they would be entered to win miles. The carrier would move at a constant speed as to measure accurately the time the bag travels. For people not in a hurry, they could simply set their bag and walk at their own pace, collecting their bag once they get to the end.
If an airport were to become a gym in itself, the layover time that a person has would become activity time. Sedentary Airport Travel would be transformed into Active Airport Travel. One small healthy choice during someone’s day could transform into a lifestyle of healthy choices.