Taking The Stairs For Exercise
Between parking farther away, and the 10-minute walk break, "taking the stairs" stands as the poster child for adding a little more exercise into your day. But you shouldn’t look at taking the stairs as some one-off chance to add more steps into your pedometer. Stair climbing is a vigorous form of exercise that results in much higher muscle activity than brisk walking so a little goes a long way. To that end, intentionally adding stair-climbing sessions can improve your stamina, help you burn a significant amount of calories, and save you time on working out.
One or Two Steps at a Time?
When I was an athlete at Waltrip Senior High in Houston, I dreaded our little “tour” of the premises during the off-season. We’d basically run the halls of the school, going up and down every flight of stairs in the entire 3-story, multi-sectioned complex. I’d go for two steps at a time to save time and energy. But because your goal is burning calories and getting the most out of your workout, you should probably go for one. Recent research in PloS One shows going two steps at a time does increase heart rate better, but when it comes to burning more calories, one-step at a time means more total steps, and thus a better overall workout over the stairway.
Stair-Climbing for Sport
You know stairs are everywhere, so why do so many of us think about taking the stairs as just an alternative to the elevator in an office building? Also called tower running, it’s officially a sport. The first annual USA National Championships took place in Las Vegas last month when climbers took to the stairs at the iconic Stratosphere Casino Tower. The American Lung Association sponsored the Scale the Strat event and does so for a great deal of stair-climbing races for their Fight for Air campaign. While many of the stairs included in the races are held in office buildings, a great map to find outdoor public stairways in and around your city can be found here. The trouble with using buildings is that you should ask for permission and you may be limited to the business hours of the building, which may lead to some awkward run-ins as workers take the stairs.
You may have heard of National Take the Stairs Day, but there are those who take the concept much further. One of those people is Dan Koeppel, who took to Los Angeles stairways with about 50 people in tow during his Stair Trek VII. The attempt to climb 80-stairways, the equivalent of 24-miles in just one day was conquered by 21 people. Other feats of stair climbing super strength came by three people who climbed 300 stairways in Los Angeles over a 10-day period. There epic journey is told by Bob Inman in The 300: The Way of the Stairs Across Los Angeles. But LA isn’t the only stairway mecca. Seattle, the San Francisco Area, and Portland all have their share of stairs. On the East Coast, Pittsburgh is shining example of the glory of stairs. Even NYC has its share of stairs just waiting for you.
Getting Started: The Easiest, Yet Still Hard Way
Yes, a great workout can be had just walking up flights of stairs in a parking garage or at the mall. But stair-climbing for any longer than 10 to 15-minutes is extremely difficult unless you’re in really great shape. Stair-climbing with alternate running up steps should have your heart rate at the max in no time. To get started, and help you stick to a routine, look for a stair climbing partner or group in your area. You’ll appreciate the workout better if you go with a group of experienced climbers who know their way around the stairs. Getting the most out of your stairway routine takes some careful planning. If you have to go it alone, map out the stairways available in your area and set a goal to climb a certain number of steps over your workout session (say 100 to start) or a certain number of stairways per week (3 is a good benchmark) or month (15). Keep your water with you on the climb. As you get better at it, add more steps, sessions and stairways to your workout.
Active.com offers up a few additional tips to get the most out of your stairway workout.
How often do you take the stairs?