There isn't a lot you can do for free these days, and exercise is often no exception. Sometimes, it can seem as though you have to pay with more than just sweat and hard work to get yourself fit. However, there are plenty of simple ways to get a good cardio workout every week, and running a few flights of stairs either indoors or outdoors will benefit everything from your cardiovascular health to the strengthening and conditioning of muscles.
Keeping the Weight Off
Running stairs is a moderate to high-intensity cardio activity that burns calories for energy. Your heart rate increases, your muscles work harder, and you’ll need more oxygen as you climb and descend. For best results, run stairs in high-intensity, short-duration intervals. This will boost your metabolism, meaning you’ll burn more calories, reducing excess weight. Remember, you’ll only reduce weight if you consume fewer calories than you burn, so cut out salty or fatty foods, and maintain a healthy, balanced diet.
Protecting Your Heart and Fighting Disease
As it’s a cardio exercise, running stairs will help to strengthen your heart and lungs. High blood pressure levels will be reduced, blood cholesterol will improve, and your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes will decrease. The American College of Sports Medicine recommend at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, five days per week, or 20 minutes of vigorous exercise, three times per week. Adding in some stair running to your weekly exercise habits will contribute to your targets.
Shaping Your Butt and Developing Your Thighs
Running stairs will strengthen your muscles, most notably those in your thighs and butt. Your glutes, hips and quads will all be engaged and activated, keeping them strong. Ankle joints and the muscles covering shins and connecting your toes will also benefit. One other set of muscles engaged are the thick group stretching down your neck, and the ones that support and protect your spine and lower back. Strengthening and developing these muscle groups will give you aesthetic benefits and help you maintain core stability.
A number of machines will replicate the act of climbing stairs, including a stepmill and stair climber, but a gym visit or purchase of expensive equipment isn’t needed because stairs are everywhere. Use the stairs instead of the elevator at work, and exercise outside wherever you can find some steps. The ground in natural areas of forests or hills can also be used as steps. When you use stairs at home, run up and down two or three times instead of just using the stairs once.
Do it Right
Begin slowly. Warm up with some marching on the spot, or jumping jacks and stretches. Take your first steps by simply walking up and down a few flights of stairs first. When you’re warmed up, run up and down the stairs two or three times at a moderate rate, making sure to watch your footing and balance. Rest for a minute or two, and then repeat for a further two sets, with the two-minute rest between sets. Wider steps are easier to navigate and give you more freedom. Narrow steps will give a more challenging workout.
Always consult your doctor before embarking on any strenuous physical activity. Running stairs can be hard on your joints, so use supportive footwear. There are more potential injuries that could occur while running stairs, such as broken bones if you take a fall, so take things steady and have a partner with you for safety.
- American College of Sports Medicine: For All-day Metabolism Boost, Try Interval Training
- American College of Sports Medicine: Exercising Your Way to Lower Blood Pressure
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Healthy Weight: It's Not a Diet, It's a Lifestyle
- ExRx.net: Exercises: Cardio: Stepmill