Stair-climbing is moving up in popularity. It’s a great way to burn calories, relieve stress and tone muscles. And it can be done for free – anywhere.
One of my favorite things about California is the way we go out of our way to weave exercise into our daily lives. Whether a quick walk at lunch or a weekend hike with the family, I try and find time to make exercise a priority.
One of the easiest ways to enhance your overall health during the day is perhaps closer than you think – and won’t cost you a cent. All you need are some sturdy shoes and a couple of extra minutes to spare. (Plus, your physician’s OK.)
The big secret? Stair climbing.
Whether you are trying to avoid the crowds at the elevators or just looking to add a few steps to your day, there are numerous health benefits to walking the stairs:
Beyond the cardio workout and prevention of heart ailments, another benefit of stair-climbing is weight reduction. With more than two-thirds of American adults overweight or obese, stair-climbing is literally a step in the right direction.
A 155-pound person, for example, burns 281 calories in 30 minutes of climbing stairs – the same number you would burn by running five mph and even more than if you were walking on a flat surface.
Additionally, stair-climbing is a great activity for blood circulation and for building strength in and toning your gluteal muscles, hamstrings, quadriceps and calves. Strengthening these muscles can reduce your risk for injuries and promote increased bone density.
Stair-climbing also can be good for stress reduction – and a chance to get away from distractions like email, smart phones and instant messaging. Climbing stairs is a way to unplug and reclaim a little time for yourself in your day. The lift you might feel in your mood and thinking is actually a benefit of increased amounts of the hormones adrenaline and noradrenaline that climbing releases.
If you are ready to add stair-climbing into your life, start with a flight or two at a relaxed pace. You can add a flight every week or so and increase your pace when you’re able. Stair climbing is like other exercise activities – you’ll be motivated to do more if you set a firm goal. And if you find it too dull or monotonous, listen to music to help set the pace and provide some musical motivation.
As a physician, I enjoy helping people live happier and healthier lives through preventive care and maintenance. Stair-walking is a great choice to help stay healthy and strong.
Christopher Walker is the Chief of Adult and Family Medicine at Kaiser Permanente Vacaville Medical Center, which is a partner with Solano Coalition of Better Health.