It has long been believed that using the stairs rather than the elevator is a wise fitness recommendation, but a recent study that was published in the journal Atherosclerosis supports this notion by examining the precise number of stairs you must walk each day in order to improve your heart health. The quick response? Your risk of cardiovascular disease could be reduced by 20% by climbing just five flights of stairs each day.
According to internal medicine specialist Dr. Yvonne Covin, "researchers found a 19% relative risk reduction of heart disease among participants who regularly climbed five flights of stairs per day." "Unfortunately, compared to those who did not exercise at all, individuals who had first ascended stairs but later stopped had a 32% higher risk of heart disease.”
The dean of Weill Cornell Medicine and a cardiologist, Dr. Robert Harrington, states that this study has limitations, just like any other research. "The U.K. Biobank, a sizable observational/epidemiological study that has been used extensively for research purposes, provided the data for the study," he explains. Since the study was observational in nature, it was unable to prove a causal relationship (e.g., "Climbing more stairs equals fewer cardiac events"); rather, it could only identify correlations between the activity and heart health.
Why taking stairs is so beneficial to you
About 695,000 Americans lose their lives to heart disease each year, making it the leading cause of mortality in the country. Aerobic exercise, or movement that uses repetitive action to raise heart rate and oxygen levels, includes stair climbing. Aerobic exercise generally lowers the risk of hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, and yes, heart disease.
"There are many activities like walking, running, and biking that are associated with improvement in cardiovascular risk, like a reduction in heart attacks," adds Harrington. "Walking stairs is similar to these activities." "Stair walking might involve a little more work than just walking, and it also calls for some core strength and balance, which could help with problems like frailty and muscle weakness."
Longevity may also be increased by climbing a few dozen feet before spending the entire day at a desk. According to Covin, "stair climbing can help improve leg power and back strength as we age, both of which can help prevent falls." In particular, it has been discovered that post-menopausal people who walk stairs have increased bone density.
Stair climbing for improved cardiac health
Harrington suggests adding stair climbing or another type of aerobic activity to your workout routine if you want to start enhancing your heart health right away. According to the guidelines set forth by the American Heart Association, I advise my patients to strive for 150 minutes a week of moderate activity (30 minutes a day, five days a week). Generally speaking, this entails three times a week of moderately paced walking and mild weightlifting to preserve strength, he explains. Since climbing stairs burns eight to eleven calories per minute, it is regarded as "moderate exercise."
Nevertheless, physical activity isn't the only way to enhance your health. Covin advises considering the six lifestyle medicine pillars when deciding how to best care for your health and mind. She defines lifestyle medicine as a medical discipline that focuses on evidence-based strategies to promote heart health.
Many timeless pieces of advice that you've probably heard before are included in these six pillars: When feasible, consume healthy, plant-based foods; give priority to restorative sleep; get in 150 minutes of movement each week; stay away from dangerous substances like alcohol and smoke; and schedule social interactions. According to estimates from the World Health Organization (WHO), putting these six activities first could prevent almost 80% of cases of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.
3 exercises to try on stairs
Even while taking a stroll up the stairs has numerous advantages, you can also try working out on the stair climber at your neighborhood gym or in a nearby stairwell.
1. Training with stair intervals
Take turns going up one flight of steps at a steady rate and another at a little faster pace that is still safe and controlled. Depending on how comfortable you are climbing stairs, repeat three to five times. After a short interval, perform the exercise once or twice more.
2. Weightlifting and stair climbing
Create a circuit training routine for yourself that consists of moderately paced stair climbing followed by strength training exercises like push-ups and crunches on the ground. For instance, you may complete ten squats, three flights of stairs, and a one-minute break before repeating the entire circuit.
3. Time-based stair climbing
To work up a simple sweat, just set a timer on your watch or phone for ten minutes and walk slowly and steadily up the stairs or stair climber. After ten minutes, take a five-minute break, then come back for an additional ten minutes of work.