Tracking your daily steps? Consider ensuring that at least 50 of those are taken climbing stairs.
Ascending just five flights daily, approximately 50 stairs in total, can diminish your chances of cardiovascular disease by nearly 20%. This revelation stems from a recent study featured in the Atherosclerosis journal.
The study underscores that beneficial cardiovascular activities don’t necessarily demand significant time or money. Merely using a commonplace facility like stairs can substantially influence health.
“Engaging in quick, intense stair climbs offers an efficient method to boost cardiorespiratory fitness and improve lipid levels, especially for those who may struggle to meet current activity guidelines, ” commented study lead Dr. Lu Qi, esteemed professor at Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine.
Dr. Qi further emphasized, “Our research underscores the potential benefits of stair climbing as a preventive measure against atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD) for the wider population.” Notably, ASCVD, together with ailments like coronary artery disease and stroke, ranks among the top global causes of mortality.
Read on to understand the benefits of stair climbing for cardiac well-being and ways to integrate more steps, especially stair-climbing, into your daily regimen.
Table of Contents
Stair Climbing: A Step Up for Cardiac Wellness
A recent study led by Tulane University researchers analyzed the habits of over 450, 000 UK adults, focusing on their daily stair-climbing routines. Additionally, they considered each individual’s genetic predispositions, familial backgrounds, and other potential cardiovascular risk indicators.
Within the 12.5-year study span, approximately 39, 000 participants manifested signs of cardiovascular disease, a collective term for conditions affecting the heart and circulatory system. Notably, coronary artery disease, a prevalent heart ailment in the U.S., can trigger heart attacks and strokes.
The research revealed a compelling link: Climbing roughly 50 stairs daily lessened cardiovascular disease susceptibility among those inherently at lower risk. Furthermore, Dr. Qi noted that individuals predisposed to a higher cardiovascular threat could also counterbalance this risk by adopting stair-climbing habits.
An intriguing observation was that those who initially adopted stair climbing but later abandoned it experienced a 32% amplified risk of cardiovascular disease compared to non-regular stair climbers.
Harmony Reynolds, MD, of the Sarah Ross Soter Center for Women’s Cardiovascular Research at NYU Langone Health, commented, “It’s a testament that consistent, simple activities in our daily routine, like stair climbing, can offer significant health advantages without the need for dedicated workout sessions.”
Reynolds further emphasized, “Committing to at least five stair flights daily—even if it means tackling a single flight five separate times—can substantially decrease cardiovascular disease risks.”
Stair Climbing vs. Walking: Unpacking the Benefits
Climbing stairs falls under the category of vigorous intermittent lifestyle physical activity (VILPA).
Such activities, which include tasks like hauling hefty groceries or sprinting for a departing train, are recognized for promoting health. They enhance aerobic capacity, better lipid profiles, and refine body composition.
“Climbing stairs is distinctly more intense than covering an equivalent number of steps on a flat surface, ” says William E. Kraus, MD, a cardiologist at Duke Health. “It’s akin to merging aerobic exercises with strength training in a single session.”
However, the advantages of VILPA extend even further. These brief, high-energy actions have demonstrated potential in prolonging life, diminishing cancer risk, and curtailing the likelihood of metabolic syndrome – a key indicator of impending cardiovascular ailments.
Reynolds asserts, “Stair climbing is indeed a commendable workout. For many, it offers a more demanding physical challenge compared to walking.”
That’s not to undermine the benefits of walking, Reynolds clarifies. Walking is a universally favored way to maintain an active lifestyle. It’s proven to enhance sleep quality, alleviate anxiety, regulate blood sugar and pressure, and assist in maintaining a healthy weight.
Boosting Your Routine with Stair Climbing
Consider incorporating more stairs into your daily activities instead of merely increasing your step count.
Reynolds suggests, “Whenever possible, opt for stairs over elevators or escalators.”
This applies even in the confines of your home, provided you have stairs. Research from 2021 suggests that ascending stairs at home can be as beneficial as using stair machines at fitness centers.
“Should you leave something upstairs, don’t delay. Fetch it right away — it’s a small favor for your heart, ” advises Reynolds.
Although the study didn’t specify the duration of stair climbing needed for positive outcomes, Reynolds offers insights on enhancing daily activity, even if stairs aren’t available.
For those finding stairs a challenge, she advises, “Consider other exercises, such as repeatedly standing up using your leg strength. Every bit of activity contributes.”
When introducing a new exercise, start with a manageable 10-15 minutes daily, gradually intensifying your routine. Reynolds mentions, “The American Heart Association advocates a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous activity every week for adults.”
She adds, “Aiming for 30 minutes over five days weekly is a straightforward target. Depending on individual health and capacity, some might manage even more. It’s pivotal to set attainable objectives.”
While the research emphasized the advantages of climbing a minimum of five flights, it remains uncertain whether increasing this number amplifies the benefits.
Kraus weighs in, saying, “It’s hard to pinpoint an optimal number. However, intuitively, 10 flights might offer more benefits than five, and so on.”
Lastly, remember that physical activity is just a fraction of the journey towards reducing cardiovascular risk. A balanced diet, weight management, and avoiding tobacco are also paramount in safeguarding heart health.
- Daily stair climbing, disease susceptibility, and risk of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease: A prospective cohort study
- Walking more than five flights of stairs a day can cut risk of heart disease by 20%, study says
- Cardiovascular Disease, Heart Disease, Coronary Heart Disease
- Promoting Stair Climbing as an Exercise Routine among Healthy Older Adults Attending a Community-Based Physical Activity Program
- Daily stair climbing is associated with decreased risk for the metabolic syndrome
- Home-Based Stair Climbing as an Intervention for Disease Risk in Adult Females; A Controlled Study
- How much physical activity do you need?
- Lifestyle Strategies for Risk Factor Reduction, Prevention, and Treatment of Cardiovascular Disease