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Stair Climbing – an Easy Way to Exercise?

stairs.jpgPhoto by twenty_questions

Anyone who has ever climbed to the top of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris or the Statue of Liberty in New York will tell you that stair climbing is not an easy exercise but you have to admit it’s something that you can easily fit into your everyday life.

Stairs are everywhere and you may as well make use of them.

In fact, keen exercisers in cities as far apart as Boston and San Francisco are starting to use skyscraper stair-climbs as their workout of choice – a 15 minute stair climb offers the same workout as 30 minutes running on flat ground and with less impact.

Even those of us without access to a nearby skyscraper can benefit from the stairs at the office, in the home or at the shopping mall. Every flight you climb counts – a Harvard University study found that men who climbed an average of at least 8 flights a day had a 33% lower mortality rate than men who were sedentary. And research in Northern Ireland has also shown that walking upstairs for just 6 minutes a day will make you 10 to 15 percent fitter.

Climbing stairs will firm your butt, your legs and your stomach – one reason why stair climbing machines at the gym are becoming more popular and why they are taking off as home exercise equipment. Just look at the range of stair climbers and steppers you can buy these days. They take up less room than a treadmill and don’t sound like a jet engine taking off in your basement or spare room – well worth considering if you are looking for home equipment.

But even if you don’t have a gym membership or space for a stair climber at home, you can integrate stair climbing into your day. Just remember when you see a sign for the elevator to look for the stairs instead and get firm and fit without taking up your precious free time.

And if you are looking for a new home don’t look at stairs as a disadvantage – that top floor appartment may be just what you need 🙂

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77 Responses to “Stair Climbing – an Easy Way to Exercise?”

  1. Jan on January 25th, 2011

    Hi Noel

    Good for you getting started. Good luck with your efforts – just don’t overdo it until you are fighting fit 🙂

    Jan

  2. Martin Winter on March 21st, 2011

    I am 76 years old and live in a high-rise apartment building (21 floors).
    I have been cimbing 5 sets (105 floors) every day for the last 5 months.
    My pace varies but it’s mostly at a casual pace, a single round trip
    (I don’t use the elevator for going down) averages 8 minutes. Not looking
    for kudos but I do wonder just how unusual (if unusual at all) my workout is.
    We have a gym in the building which I have given up in favor of the stairs…
    not sure that was a good idea, but it works for me. I’ve also heard that
    walking down stairs was a good exercise as well.

  3. Jan on March 21st, 2011

    Hi Martin

    I’d say you were pretty unusual 🙂 There are not many people of any age who could do that, never mind your age.

    I’m all in favor of finding an exercise that suits you (one you like and one that suits your body and makes you healthier) and you seem to have found just that.

    Keep doing it as long as it’s good for you – and only you and your doctor can decide on that

    Jan

  4. Jay T. Basinger on April 2nd, 2011

    I’m a retired coach and P.E. Teacher. I spent my life exercising every day.
    I have just completed a set of stair climbs equal to Mt. Everest. 30,000 ft. in 60 days climbing 540 ft./day in 17 minutes. That equates to 17 total hours climbing. (up and down)

    The condo unit here has three floors at 10 ft /floor. Each flight is 20 ft. I do 27 flights to get 540 ft. The building design has the stair well outside and it’s covered. This is an outdoor all weather arrangement… perfect! I’m still climbing after the initial 60 days and will probably add some hand weights for added arm exercise.

    No knee damage or strain so far. I have started to increase the intensity by skipping steps. I have not stumbled or tripped yet. I use a coffee cup and 27 pennies to keep tract of my flights. The stairs are 4 ft. wide with hand rails on each side. This helps in keeping balance and prevents potential accidents.

    There are four landings that could be utilized for different exercises to add variety and to focus on other muscle groups. I’m only going 17 minutes each day. I would rather increase my intensity than to add more time.

    Do you have any thoughts or suggestions for my routine? I do reach my target heart rate, but is 17 minutes too short on time for maximum benefits? I feel this time is equivalent to jogging about two miles for me.

    Thanks for this forum,

    JTB

  5. Jan on April 3rd, 2011

    Hi Jay

    thanks for sharing your inspirational routine. I am a great believer in doing exercise which makes you feel good and this routine obviously suits you. If you want to measure whether it is making you fitter then a heart rate monitor could help as this will help you make sure that you stay in the training range during your exercise and will help show your recovery rate getting faster (if it is).

    If you would like to do more then the main things I suggest are that you take care of other aspects of fitness – upper body strength and flexibility as these will not be helped by your stair climb. In fact, using the same muscles continually in the same way can reduce flexibility which is so important to maintain a youthful look as you get older. I would not try and incorporate these within your stair climb routine but focus on them in separate sessions so that you give them as much focus and attention. Even 10 minutes working on each of these aspects of your fitness every day will give you great benefit.

    Jan

  6. Char on April 4th, 2011

    I am looking for a good number of stairs to climb for a little toning of the butt. I am not heavy by any means, just want to tone a little. I have a stair climber and have started out doing 300/day but need to know what is a good number to be climbing for successful toning.

  7. Jan on April 5th, 2011

    Hi Char

    There are so many variables here that it would be impossible for anyone else to give you a number. It depends on how strong your muscles are, the resistance you are getting from the machine etc. Results are the best measure. If 300 gives you results then do 300. If you don’t perceive any effects after a week or two however then you need to work a bit harder – but just increase gradually within your capability. You can increase in 3 ways – duration of exercise, intensity of exercise (resistance), or speed. Experiment to find the best combination of all 3 for you with your particular stair climber. As you get stronger and fitter you will need to gradually increase anyway to keep getting stronger and fitter…

    Jan

  8. Maali on April 11th, 2011

    I heard that climbing stairs is not good exercise for body and spinal code. Is that true?

  9. Richa on April 12th, 2011

    My Height is 155cms and weight 52 kgs. From past few 2 months am putting on weight excessively at the lower part of the body and my tummy also not intact , it is growing like a sack. we have 2 flights stairs at home of 15 each. So planning to do stair exercise going up and down 3 flight around 3 times daily. Will it have any effect on reducing the lower boby weight and getting flat tummy in addition to following the right diet? Or do I need to increase the number of flights??

  10. Jan on April 12th, 2011

    Hi Richa

    I don’t actually see fitness and exercise as the best means of losing weight – of course you use up calories and it helps but you have to do too much of it to lose anything major. For instance you have to run more than a marathon to lose a pound of actual fat (3500 calories worth of running). You’ll lose water weight too potentially but the fat is not going to disappear easily with a bit of stair climbing. You need to change what you eat for that. Sorry about that. That is not to say that you should not do it. Exercise is great for keeping you alive, it WILL use up calories, which all helps, as I said and it can make you feel more positive about your body which helps you get motivated to eat less. If you want to see how much stair climbing you would have to do to lose 1lb you have to compute how much you would have to do to burn 3500 calories. It’s a lot. Using a stair climber machine (which is probably the equivalent of going upstairs all the time) you use 3.7 calories per hour per pound of your body weight or about 9 calories a minute for a 67kg person – you would burn less. So you can see how much work is involved in losing a pound. Just remember though that every ounce of fat you lose through activity counts when you trying to lose weight.

    Jan

  11. DONNA on April 22nd, 2011

    I would like to use my 12 stairs to excersise each day. I only want to strengthen and tone. and help my osteoporosis.How many reps do you think would help? thankyou!

  12. Jan on April 23rd, 2011

    Hi Maali

    like every exercise you can do it well or do it poorly so it depends how you hold your body, what your body is capable of etc. There is no right and wrong exercise just right and wrong ways to carry out a particular exercise and right and wrong exercises for your particular circumstances.

    Jan

  13. Jan on April 23rd, 2011

    Hi Donna

    How much exercise you do and how many stairs you climb is really a personal thing depending on what your body is capable of, so I can’t provide personal advice like that. If you have any medical condition, or even potential medical condition, it is worth asking your doctor for advice.

    Jan

  14. pranav on April 25th, 2011

    i climb the 15 floors in the building i live in, i weigh 85 kg’s do you think this workout is good enough for me?
    i’m 20 years old
    i climb the fifteen floors five times in an average every day…

  15. Jan on April 29th, 2011

    Hi Pranav

    As I said to Donna, this is something I can’t answer as everyone’s need and for exercise and ability is different. In any case, we all need a full range of exercise so stair climbing by itself is not enough as this has is mainly an aerobic exercise though it strengthens some of your muscles too. You definitely need exercises for upper body strength and flexibility too.

    Jan

  16. Noel on August 17th, 2011

    Just out of curiosity: how many stair steps would it take to equal the benefits of 1 mile of running? That would be a good number to use as a benchmark or goal.

  17. Jan on August 17th, 2011

    They are different exercises, so they have different benefits in terms of which muscles you are exercising. It also depends how fast you go and how much you task your heart to do in a given period for cardio-vascular benefit. Different calories per hour as well of course. Is that what you meant? Stair climbing is 9 calories a minute for a 147lb person. Running at 6.5 mph is 10.3 calories a minute for the same person.

  18. Rachel on September 3rd, 2011

    Hello,

    I was thinking about climbing up and down the stairs at my dorm for about 15 mins every morning (or every other morning since some days I have class very early). I’m looking to lose some weight, ya’ see. I’m also on a low carb diet.

    I was wondering, do you think doing this for exercise about 4 to 5 times a week will help me lose weight? How speedilly do you think it would happen? I’m 21, 5’4, and about 150 lbs, looking to lose 10 or more.

  19. Jan on September 3rd, 2011

    Hi Rachel

    Every type of exercise helps you lose weight. Though doing 15 minutes is not going to have much effect every little helps. A pound of fat is about 3500 calories worth of exercise so that’s quite a lot of stairs if you want to lose 10lbs. I think exercise does have indirect benefits on weight loss though because it gets you up and motivated and improves your mood all of which help you to stick to a healthy eating plan.

    Jan

  20. Surmeet Singh on July 18th, 2012

    hi there, i use step mill in gym for half an hour from last one month. i am felling tired & pain in both knees. i want to flaten my tummy through this ecercise & i have attained succes uptp considerable extent. but i am feeling pain in my both knees. will it damage my knees. i am 35 yrs of age. pls reply

  21. Jan on July 18th, 2012

    Hi

    I am not in favor of any exercise that causes pain. Pain is the body’s signal that you doing some kind of damage. An exercise might leave a bit of soreness if you have not used muscles for some time, and thats Ok but pain in the joints is something else and I would have a physiotherapist take a look at what you are doing to make sure you don’t do any lasting damage. In any case, it is a good idea to vary your exercise so you are not putting stress on any one area of the body and not focus only on stair climbing. If you want to flatten your abs you can do that without straining your knees at all. See http://simplyfitnessgear.com/flatterabs/ for a FREE course

    Jan

  22. dbo on August 6th, 2012

    I’ve been climbing 200 stairs to my office on the 10th floor twice a day (once in the morning, and once after lunch) since my company moved to a new building. I can definitely tell it’s having a positive effect on my stamina, as now, after about 4 months of climbing I can reach the top without even getting winded or breaking a sweat. No sign of knee issues, in fact I used to have knee problems (I’ve been doing Kung Fu for about 8 years and it’s put quite a lot of strain on my knees), but since beginning this excercise (and also taking a fish oil supplement- though I don’t know which is having the positive effect) my knee issues have completely vanished.

    I highly recommend this type of excercise. In his book The Tao of Jeet Kun Do, Bruce Lee also recommended his students to take the stairs, and to put their shoes and socks on standing up without leaning on anything. Adding a little bit of effort to your daily routine can make a big difference in your overall health.

  23. Jan on August 6th, 2012

    Great work on your stamina dbo!

    I love the shoe and sock idea – if you try it. just make sure you’re not anyway where you’re going to hurt yourself if you lose your balance – especially in the beginning

    Jan

  24. Michelle Brown on November 8th, 2012

    I work on the 18 floor I started walking up the steps yesterday I made it to the 5th floor I’m 173 pounds and I want to be 150 pounds by February which is my bday month so I was wondering how fast will I lose the weight by walking up the steps daily and adding on a flight every day?

  25. Jan on November 10th, 2012

    The math on that one is far too complicated for me Michelle. but I know that walking upstairs every day (even 18 flights) won’t be enough to lose 23lbs by February. For that you have to use up 80,500 calories more than you eat (as each pound is 3500 calories worth of fat) so even if you use up 500 calories a day climbing stairs (which you won’t) it will take you 161 days and that relies on you not eating too much to negate the effect. You really need to look at your diet as well as exercise if you want to lose weight. Sorry – but that’s the way it is. Don’t give up the stair climbing plan though – because that amount of exercise is going to help – it’s just not going to do all of the work.

  26. Robert C. Lang on April 30th, 2014

    According to survey records my home is 237 feet above sea level. 2 to 3 times a day I make the 2.1 mile roundtrip to sea level (San Francisco Bay). My Fitbit One has an altimeter that I have found to be extremely accurate that credits me with 23 floors climbed for round each trip. Between these round trips, other walks around my hilly neighborhood, and the normal stair climbs I normally do living in a multi-story home I average about 120 floors climbed a day. It has become so routine I don’t even think about it even though some walking partners, who are used to walks on flat terrain, *really* feel the difference.

  27. Jan on April 30th, 2014

    That’s great exercise! I lived in Holland for a few years where the terrain is extremely flat and really felt it when I returned home to Scotland where everything is hilly so I know what your friends mean LOL

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