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Taking The Stairs For Exercise


By +Carolyn Richardson on Apr 21, 2013 10:00 AM in Tips & Updates

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.

Stair Marathons

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.  

Your thoughts…


How often do you take the stairs?

 

 

 



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Comments


I love to do short vigorous stair climbing workouts. It's super convenient (I don't even have to leave my house), and makes me feel good. Every time I reach the top of the stairs I feel like I've accomplished something big. Plus, it builds great quad muscles. 



I take the stairs whenever possible also when I'm on vacation I try to get the high hotel room not only for the view but to take the stairs to my room- sometimes after a vacation my calf muscles are so sore!!


I do not agree with the statement about taking one stair at time will burn more calories than taking them two at time.

When it comes to burning calories, it does not matter. Just as running a mile and walking a mile will burn the same amount of calories, going up a flight of stairs burns a certain amount of calories, regardless of if you take them one or two stairs at time.

And if you are looking for a higher cardio workout, two at a time is the way to go.

Also would have been nice if the article had talked a bit about the different types of stair machines and the right way to use them.

As for the stair climbs, I have done a few of them and they are, not fun, but good. ANYONE can do them. Some people are fast and some are slow but everyone can do them. Here is San Francisco's big stair climb (52 stories), the times range from 7 minutes to 2.5 hours. You think you can't do it until you see someone doing it on crutches.



@gunmike, I don't think that's true, according to my calculation, when walking 3mph a mile would take you 20 mins and at my weight I would burn approx 99 cals. And running 6 miles and hour, a 10 mim run would burn 139 cals. Maybe if you ran or walked at the exact same speed, but even slow runners are mostly faster than fast walkers, to my knowedge anyway. And even then, running has more impact on your body (joints, muscles, cardiovascular system), so that alone should help you burn more calories.


I work from home office, which is on the lower floor of my house. Instead of using the lower bathroom I go up to the upper one, just a little exercise increase but every little bit helps! And with the amount of water I am drinking to help my diet I visit the bathroom A LOT! Sometimes I wear ankle weights during the day which also adds a bit of calorie burn. Also I try *not* to be efficient in getting everything I need downstairs before going up, and vice versa, so I make multiple trips. I think it helps to build a little more exercise into your daily routine.



CAUTIONARY STATEMENT:  I ran stairs for 45 minutes a day for two years.  It was great for losing weight, BUT it messed up by knees like crazy.  Twenty-five years later I had regained my weight, partly because my knees became so bad I couldn't do any form of exercise. AND I've had bi-lateral total knee replacement. I then had a quadraplasty on one knee.  Now I'm having to relearn stair climbing just to be able to function normally in the world.  PLEASE, moderation in using stair climbing as a sustained, long term form of exercise.



@Maki,

It is basic physics. Because we really don't have to worry about wind resistance, it takes a certain amount of energy (i.e. calories) to move from one spot to another, regardless of speed.

Now, if you take into account how much harder you are breathing and the like, I would think that taking the steps two at a time would actually increase your caloric burn rate at least a bit (however slight).

As for me, I realize that as I age and get less flexible, my stride and step will start to shorten up so I try to remind myself to keep my stride long and take steps two at a time.



I started stair climbing at home when I couldn't go for a walk on bad weather days. I have 16 steps, I'd climb them two at a time.  Found it was gr8 exercise. Year later we bought a new house and now we have 30 steps. I run up and run down, I'm up to 18 minutes. To make it more challenging I user a timer on my DROID phone and push my self against time to see how quickly I can do one round (30 steps up 30 down is one round)  and how many rounds in the 18 minutes. My best time is 34.75 seconds average for the 18 minutes and 31 rounds. That's 540 steps up & same amount down. My wife at first couldn't hack more than 2 minutes. Now she is up to 18 minutes, but she just walks it. We try to do at least once a day.  We both feel in great shape. At 60 my knees do bother me a little. Recommend this work out!  

 



I started stair climbing at home when I couldn't go for a walk on bad weather days. I have 16 steps, I'd climb them two at a time.  Found it was gr8 exercise. Year later we bought a new house and now we have 30 steps. I run up and run down, I'm up to 18 minutes. To make it more challenging I user a timer on my DROID phone and push my self against time to see how quickly I can do one round (30 steps up 30 down is one round)  and how many rounds in the 18 minutes. My best time is 34.75 seconds average for the 18 minutes and 31 rounds. That's 540 steps up & same amount down. My wife at first couldn't hack more than 2 minutes. Now she is up to 18 minutes, but she just walks it. We try to do at least once a day.  We both feel in great shape. At 60 my knees do bother me a little. Recommend this work out!  

 



I have lost a total of 21 lbs using the stairs.  I try and do 3 10 minute intervals while at work.  Both breaks and on my lunch it really is an easy way to get exercise in and not feel like you are killing yourself but it definately helps. 



What a small world, that's where I went to high school as well!
I ran Cross Country and the coach made us do the same thing.
I absolutely love taking the stairs for bursts of exercise throughout the day.
I work on the 12th floor in a high-rise, and opt to take the stairs the whole way up and down when coming and going or just running errands. If I feel a little lethargic after sitting for so long, I go down the stairs and back up just a few flights and I can feel my energy bounding back!



I always take the stairs when I'm going down, but I can't take them up to my office because the doors are locked (the only door that opens from the stairwell is the ground level). 



this is not a good advise for overweight people. i did steps workouts a decade ago when i was about 40lbs overweight and in one month it ruined my knees. since then i haven't run ever, and i can't remember the last time i could kneel.

stair climbing could only be good for very, very fit people.



For safety, it is not a good idea for a women to take the stairs alone in places such as hotels and parking garages. 



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