Torch Calories With This 20-Minute Low-Impact Stair Cardio Workout

The right moves can help you get a great stair workout with minimal stress on your joints.
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How does sprinting up and down stairs sound? In a word, painful?

Stair climbs are a notoriously great cardio workout, and while they can totally spike your heart rate and burn calories, they aren't the easiest for your joints to handle.

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Fortunately, even if you aren't up for all of the pounding, your home or park's staircase still makes an excellent low-impact cardio tool.

This 20-minute low-impact stair cardio workout is proof. Courtesy of New York-based physical therapist and strength coach Samuel Chan, DPT, CSCS, it torches calories, works your heart and builds lean total-body muscle without the extra stress.

All you need to get started is a small staircase and your phone's timer — though you may want a water bottle close by, too.

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The Stair Cardio Workout

Image Credit: LIVESTRONG.com Creative

For this circuit stair workout, you'll do 10 reps of three different exercises, catch your breath, and then do it all again for as many rounds as you can with good form in 20 minutes. (Or, if you're really short on time, even 5 minutes works!)

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Between sets, take rests as needed, especially as you approach the 20-minute mark. When the timer buzzes, jot down how many rounds you completed. Over time, you'll be able to do more and more.

Move 1: Mountain Climber

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Reps 10
Region Full Body
  1. Start in a high plank position with your hands on the staircase.
  2. Balance on your palms and toes with your body in a straight line. Keep your palms under your shoulders and your back in a neutral position. Brace your core.
  3. Pull through your core to drive one knee up toward your chest.
  4. Return that leg to the starting position.
  5. Repeat on the other side.
  6. That's 1 rep.

Tip

If you're having trouble keeping your form in check, slow down this move, Chan says.

Move 2: Elevated Push-Up

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Reps 10
Region [ "Upper Body", "Core" ]
  1. Start in a high plank position with your hands on the staircase.
  2. Balance on your palms and toes with your body in a straight line from heels to hips to head. Keep your palms under your shoulders and your back in a neutral position. Brace your core.
  3. Lower your chest toward the stairs. Let your elbows flare diagonally from the sides of your body. On the way down, squeeze your shoulder blades together.
  4. When your chest hovers just above the stairs (or however far down you can go), press into the stair and push your shoulder blades apart to return to the starting position.
  5. That's 1 rep.

Tip

Make this move harder or easier by putting your hands on a lower or higher step.

Move 3: Lateral Step-Up

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Reps 10
Region Lower Body
  1. Stand next to the staircase and place one foot on the first step.
  2. Shift your weight to your raised foot, with your other foot just touching the floor for support.
  3. Pumping your arms for balance, drive your hanging leg's knee up toward your chest.
  4. Lower it back toward the starting position.
  5. That's 1 rep. Do all reps, then switch sides.

Tip

To get your heart rate up higher, go straight from rep to rep without pausing.

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