As you all know, this week’s fitness challenge is to take the stairs as much as possible. That means that if you see a staircase leading to your destination, you should make an effort to take it. You can also do this on a modified basis by walking up escalators instead of standing on them or even increasing the gravitational resistance challenge by taking two or more steps at a time if you are able. Jogging up to create and even greater burn is also acceptable! In the meantime, though, I wanted to take some time to address the benefits of stair-climbing in terms of strength and resistance training, increasing our cardiorespiratory efficiency, and burning calories.
Stair-Climbing Increases Cardiorespiratory Fitness
According to a study done by the Department of Kinesiology at McMaster University, “brief intense stair climbing can improve cardiorespiratory fitness.” Cardiorespiratory fitness is important because it is the ability for your circulatory and respiratory system to supply adequate oxygen to your working muscles during physical activity. This is what allows you to move and keep moving efficiently without getting overly burdened or tired.
The American Heart Association also says that improvements to the cardiorespiratory system can help reduce the risk of the following health issues:
- Heart disease
- Lung cancer
- Type 2 diabetes
Stair-Climbing Burns More Calories than Walking
According to MayoClinic.com, a 160-lb. person can burn approximately 657 calories in one hour of stair-climbing. Whereas, a 160-lb. person walking at 3.5 mph burns approximately 277 calories per hour. As you can see there is a huge difference between calories burned and amount of time worked for walkers and stair-climbers. If done at a moderate or fast pace, stair-climbing can be considered vigorous physical activity as well.
This falls in line with the following physical activity recommendations from the United States Department of Health and Human Services:
- At least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity exercise
- …or 75 minutes a week of vigorous physical activity.
Stair-Climbing Improves Lower-Body Muscular Strength
Since stair-climbing recruits the large muscles of the legs and causes your body to move against gravity, it is considered a strength training or body weight exercise. Repetitively recruiting large muscle groups for physical activity also means that a larger amount of calories can be burned and more muscle can be gained over time. Stair-climbing is also a very good high-intensity interval training exercise because you can increase and decrease your pace in intervals (keeping your heart rate up) and you’re getting the added benefit of improving your physical strength.
It’s Convenient and is Great for Mental Health
We all have to deal with stairs at some point in our lives. From traveling to work to traveling to school, it’s something that we can do easily and adds significant benefits to our physical and mental health. Even just a little bit of exercise a day can improve your mental well-being and boost energy for the rest of the day. Not everyone can always make it into the gym or find the time specifically to exercise. That is why it’s important to boost the amount of NEAT, or non-exercise activity thermogenesis, which is “the energy expended for everything we do that is not sleeping, eating or sports-like exercise,” according to the Endocrine Research Unit, at the MayoClinic. Stair-climbing during activities of daily living is an excellent way of achieving and maximizing NEAT without directly doing physical exercise.
So, the next time you see a staircase, don’t ignore it. Take it! The health benefits are boundless and it could prove to be just the first “step” you need toward a more active lifestyle.
This blog is not intended to substitute for informed medical advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.