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Does Running Up & Down Stairs Help Lose Belly Fat?

author image Andrea Cespedes
Andrea Cespedes is a professionally trained chef who has focused studies in nutrition. With more than 20 years of experience in the fitness industry, she coaches cycling and running and teaches Pilates and yoga. She is an American Council on Exercise-certified personal trainer, RYT-200 and has degrees from Princeton and Columbia University.
Does Running Up & Down Stairs Help Lose Belly Fat?
Use a set of stairs as a workout tool. Photo Credit Zoonar RF/Zoonar/Getty Images

A few flights of stairs is certainly a good way to fit a burst of fitness into a busy schedule. Running long sets, such as those you find in a stadium, can even be part of your strategy to lose a few pounds of belly fat.

You lose the tire around your middle with a combination of exercise and dietary changes. Running up and down stairs helps you fit in some calorie-burning cardio exercise, but you need to augment it with resistance training, additional cardio and dietary adjustments to get a slimmer waistline.

Composition of Belly Fat

Belly fat consists of two types of fat: visceral and subcutaneous. The visceral fat sits deep inside your abdomen and surrounds your internal organs. It feels firm and creates that paunchy look. Visceral fat is also exceptionally dangerous in that it excretes inflammatory compounds throughout your body, raising your risk of chronic disease.

You also have subcutaneous belly fat, which sits just below your skin. Unless you're majorly overweight, this fat is less of a health risk and more of a skinny-jeans/muffin top dilemma. It's pinchable and squishy to the touch.

Any stairs are superior to the elevator.
Any stairs are superior to the elevator. Photo Credit Jupiterimages/PHOTOS.com>>/Getty Images

Losing Belly Fat

Both types of fat shrink in response to diet and exercise that puts you in a caloric deficit, meaning you eat fewer calories than you burn. When you lose weight, you can't directly target your belly for the fat loss — your body loses it in a genetically and hormone-ally set pattern. A deficit of 3,500 calories results in a pound of fat lost, total — not just from your middle. You generally lose weight all over, including your abdomen.

One exception is visceral belly fat. While you can't point and shoot select fat for loss, visceral belly fat is often some of the first to go because it's so inflammatory and reactive. However, the other type of belly fat — subcutaneous fat — is some of the more stubborn fat to lose, so if this is your target, you may have to work extra hard and wait extra long.

How Stair Climbing Fits In

To make that visceral fat budge, you need a combination of exercise and dietary strategies. The more you move, the better, so if you're relatively sedentary, adding stair climbing along with other daily activity can make a difference and help you lose a couple pounds over the course of several months.

However, if you want to speed up your belly fat loss, running stairs needs to be more than a 5-minute excursion. A 140-pound women burns about 9 calories per minute running up the stairs; the more you weigh, the more you burn. So, if you take stair running seriously and do about 30 minutes straight, you can burn about 270 calories.

Therefore, find a long staircase, a stadium or a set that you can run up and down repetitively.

Read More: Meal Plan to Lose Belly Fat

Augment Climbing

It may take running something equivalent to the Empire State Building almost daily to get you to lose a lot of belly fat with stair running alone. Stair running is part of an overall strategy that also includes:

Go Whole: Eat less white, refined carbs — such as white pasta and bread — and more whole grains. A study published in a 2015 issue of the British Journal of Nutrition noted that consumption of white bread, but not whole-grain bread, is associated with greater fat gains, especially abdominal fat.

Emphasize Lean Protein: Lean proteins, such as white-meat poultry, fish and lean steak, help fill you up. You may also slightly boost your metabolic rate with the effort needed by your digestive tract to digest the protein; this makes weight loss easier. Make lean protein the center of your meals alongside generous portions of green veggies and a little whole grains.

Go Cardio Crazy: Stair running can be one cardio exercise, but it doesn't have to be your only one; the impact can be rough on your joints. Alternate it with other high-intensity choices such as indoor cycling, kickboxing and elliptical gliding.

Strength-Train Regularly: While stair climbing and other cardio is satisfying for its calorie burn effects, consider adding weights to your routine. You'll build more muscle mass, which helps you burn more calories at rest and lose fat. Plus, it'll make you stronger to tackle the stairs. Aim for two total-body strength workouts per week, minimum.

Add HIIT: Stair running can be performed as a form of this fat-burning approach to exercise in which you alternate short bursts of hard efforts with easier bursts. A short staircase that takes about 30 seconds to climb is perfect for this type of session. Run full speed up the stairs, then take it easy on the way back down. Repeat for 20 to 30 minutes. Due to the aggressive nature of high-intensity interval training, or HIIT, only use it for two or three of your weekly workouts.

Read More: High-Intensity Interval Training for Weight Loss

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