Health and Architecture in the Home and Office: Movement

Many people working a full-time job do not get the exercise they need in order to live a healthy lifestyle. Stress at work can cause physical exhaustion, leaving little energy for exercise during free time. Time and money-saving options – no gym membership necessary – include actively commuting to the workplace and regularly moving around once there.


For some, the commute to and from the workplace can be the worst part of the day, particularly car commutes, which offer little to no opportunity for movement. For others, the commute can be a valuable time for fitting exercise into the day, which can contribute benefits beyond improved physical fitness. In a 2014 study published in Preventative Medicine, Adam Martin et al. found commuters who took modes of active travel (walking, cycling and public transport) to work experienced significantly higher degrees of psychological wellbeing than those who travelled to work by car.

In order to better accommodate workers who actively commute, designers can incorporate facilities like showers, bike storage and a locker room into their office buildings. For existing buildings that lack the space to add such facilities, the company Active Commuting has designed a set of modular pods to provide precisely these amenities.

A combination of Active Commuting's modular pods © Active Commuting Ltd

A medium changing pod, with shower and storage facilities © Active Commuting Ltd

Incorporating movement into the day need not be limited to the commute: design decisions can also influence the amount of activity workers undertake once at work. Upon entering a building, the decision whether to take the stairs or the lift can depend on which you reach first. The World Green Building Council’s 2014 ‘Health, Wellbeing & Productivity in Offices’ study recommends locating attractive, well-lit stairs near a building’s main entrance to encourage people to walk between floors instead of taking the lift.

Mixed-use neighbourhoods provide the best opportunity for active communities to flourish. Housing developments with ground-floor retail can bring amenities like grocery stores, community spaces and sport facilities into a walkable radius for residents, making them more likely to walk, cycle or take transit than drive there. A well-connected community can also foster a sense of safety and security. In a 2012 study for the Canadian Medical Association, Lawrence Frank et al. discerned a direct link between physical activity and perceived safety and security, particularly for vulnerable groups like women, youth, people with disabilities and the elderly. Likewise, neighbourhood-level perceptions of danger can limit residents’ physical activity, per a 2002 study by James Krieger and Donna Higgins in the American Journal of Public Health. Therefore, neighbourhood design should focus on connectivity and safety in order to encourage a healthy lifestyle for its residents.

Key points for architects and designers:


UNStudio and Prooff’s StandTable and SitTable grant office workers new settings for informal, active collaboration. By introducing an unexpected function into a traditional office element, the StandTable and SitTable act as hybrid objects that transform an often sedentary, solitary activity – office work – and make it an active, social one.

UNStudio and Prooff's SitTable © Prooff

UNStudio and Prooff's StandTable © Prooff

UNStudio Team: Luke Parkhurst, Filippo Lodi, Bart Chompff, Marisa Cortright