MUNICH (Reuters) – Using the stairs at work instead of taking elevators could be a life saver.

A small Swiss study released on Monday showed that walking up and down stairs for three months, without recourse to the lift, increased levels of fitness dramatically.

In fact, the improvement in aerobic capacity was equivalent to a 15 percent fall in the risk of dying prematurely from any cause.

Subjects also saw marked reduction in waist size, body fat, blood pressure and cholesterol — all of which are known risk factors for heart disease.

Philippe Meyer of the University Hospital in Geneva studied 69 employees of the university with a sedentary lifestyle, defined as less than two hours of exercise a week and fewer than 10 flights of stairs climbed a day.

After not using elevators for 12 weeks, they increased their use of stairs to an average of 23 stories ascended or descended a day from five before, with a resulting sharp increase in fitness levels.

“This suggests that stair climbing at work may have major public health implications,” Meyer told the annual meeting of the European Society of Cardiology. “However, the results of the pilot study need to be confirmed in a larger randomized controlled trial.”