Fitness Challenge : Take the Stairs

August 10, 2017
Office of Dr. Steven Fass

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Looking for an aerobic workout that gets your heart rate going? Trying to up your daily cardio exercise but too busy for a gym class as part of your daily routine? Giving your muscles a strong workout can be as simple as taking the stairs.

Benefits of Stair Climbing

By deviating from your normal routine of walking on a level surface, you’ll burn more calories and tone more muscle. Stair climbing is highly recommended by trainers when you’re ready to change up your routine or if your weight loss has plateaued. Plus, taking the stairs is a great way to increase your natural energy levels, which in turn decreases your risk for other issues such as diabetes, osteoporosis, high blood pressure, and heart disease. Heart healthy exercise, like stair climbing, raises good cholesterol levels, while lowering the bad ones. Strong exercise also boosts your immune system, so you might get sick less often.

Studies also show that stair climbing, even at a slow pace, burns calories three-times faster than walking on a flat surface. Athletes use stairs as a more vigorous training exercise because stairs offer a greater fitness challenge. By strengthening your lungs and heart, stair climbing helps make other everyday activities–like that long walk across the parking lot–much easier.

Stair climbing, like most aerobic exercises, will help your stress level as well. When you work out at a moderate to high pace, your body releases chemical endorphins that help soothe your nerves. This is why, if you’re feeling overwhelmed at work or home, simply walking up or down the stairs can help you calm down about the situation.

Recommended Stair Strategies

Since 30 to 60 minutes of aerobic activity, three to five times a week, is recommended for maximum benefit, consider adding in stairs at least once or twice a week. Start slowly and monitor your heart rate and body’s response. Warm up your muscles first with a brisk walk, and be sure to wear solid shoes with a good grip. Alternate your stair climbing days with less impact activities like swimming or biking to reduce joint strain.

Set a goal and increase it gradually. If you can only do one flight or five minutes on the first day, that’s great! Work from where you begin with an end goal in mind. Don’t worry about what others are accomplishing. Focus only on what’s best for your health.

Know Your Limits

Stair climbing may not be a good choice for everyone. If you have knee problems, you should consider a different activity to increase your cardiovascular strength. When descending, be sure to use the handrail and don’t go too fast. If you ever feel faint or dizzy, pause in your workout and rest. Remember to hydrate well before and after exercising. Finally, remember working out with a friend has many benefits. Not only are you motivating one another, you have someone there if you become ill or injured.

Bottom line, exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. Do what works for you and look for the benefits in everyday activities.

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