Is a Stairmaster Helpful in Losing Weight or Toning?

When it comes to losing weight, finding a cardio machine that maximizes your calorie burn in the least amount of time is key to shedding the pounds. And if your fitness goal also includes targeting the muscles in your lower body, then hopping on a StairMaster is one way to get the job done.

The StairMaster is a great cardio machine. (Image: Luka/Cultura/GettyImages)

Tip

The StairMaster is a cardio machine that allows you to increase your heart rate and burn calories, which means it can help you lose weight and decrease overall body fat.

Calorie-Crushing Workout

The StairMaster is a cardio machine that rotates steps, which allows you to simulate climbing up a set of stairs. You're in control of the speed and how fast you climb. The higher the speed, the more intense the workout, and consequently, the more calories you burn. That said, there are handrails to help you balance, but if you want to maximize your workout and eliminate back pain, avoid leaning on the rails while exercising.

If you've ever knocked out a 30-minute session on the StairMaster, then you understand the benefits of this calorie-crushing machine. When climbing at a moderate intensity, a 155-pound person can burn approximately 223 calories per 30-minute workout. To increase that number, crank up the speed and make sure to stand upright, without leaning on the handrails.

While this popular piece of cardio equipment is very effective, it shouldn't be the only thing you do when trying to lose weight. To stave off boredom and keep your body challenged, make sure to incorporate other forms of cardio such as swimming, cycling, walking or jogging. You also need to save time in your schedule for two to three days a week of resistance training.

StairMaster for Lower-Body Toning

Contrary to what you might hear at the gym, the StairMaster is not going to make your legs and glutes bulky. Yes, climbing stairs requires a lot of effort from your lower body, but you are asking it to perform a cardiovascular exercise with your body weight, not strength training with added resistance.

The StairMaster relies on the large and powerful muscles of your lower body to assist with the stepping motion. However, it's important to point out that spot reducing is not a realistic method of toning one particular area. Which means, when performing aerobic exercise such as stair climbing, you will be working to reduce overall body fat, not just the fat on your hips, legs and glutes.

That said, you will feel the burn specifically in the glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings and calves since these muscles are challenged during the entire workout. Plus, the higher the level at which you climb, the more you will rely on these muscles to keep you upright, and consequently, the harder they will work.

Guidelines for Weight Loss

Adults should get a minimum of 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity cardio or 75 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity, plus two or more days of muscle-strengthening exercises that involve all major muscle groups, according to Health.gov's Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommendations. But remember, this is the minimum for general health. To lose weight, you need to bump those weekly minutes up significantly and increase the intensity of your workouts.

In fact, the Mayo Clinic suggests increasing your aerobic exercise from the minimum of 150 minutes a week to the maximum of 300 minutes each week if you want to take full advantage of the potential health and weight loss benefits. For safe and sustainable weight loss, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends losing a maximum of 1 to 2 pounds per week.

To help you reach that goal, you can add the StairMaster to your fitness routine. If you're aiming for the 300 minutes of cardio each week, consider spreading your aerobic sessions over five to six days. This allows you to do shorter sessions, which gives you time to perform resistance training at least two to three days each week.

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