Putting up posters displaying how many calories people burn by taking the stairs in workplaces and public buildings could help cut obesity, a new Government-backed tech start-up has claimed.

The initiative, called StepJockey, which is based on “nudge theory” is being formally launched today. Participating workplaces display posters by staircases, and employees can download an app which calculates how many calories they are burning over time by walking up stairs instead of taking lifts or escalators.

In buildings where the posters were displayed, stair use increased by 29 per cent, and those employees who had downloaded the app were five times more likely to walk up staircases.

Several workplaces are already displaying the posters, which are also used in all of Hertfordshire County Council’s buildings. Using the stairs burns seven times more calories than taking a lift and minute-for-minute, is more a rigorous exercise than jogging.

The company behind the idea has received funding from the Department of Health and is also backed by London Mayor Boris Johnson.

Lord Howe, minister for health, said: “It is really important that we all do as much exercise as we can to reduce the risk of preventable illness and lead longer,

healthier lives. Tackling inactivity is one of the challenges facing the NHS today and one of the reasons why we have awarded StepJockey funding through our £50 million Small Business Research Initiative.”