It's a piece of exercise "equipment" most people overlook, but that staircase can do more than get you from Point A to Point B. If you've wondered about the average number of calories burned climbing stairs, the amount might surprise you — especially if you keep at it for a half-hour or so.
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Many factors influence the calories-burned-climbing-stairs equation, including the person’s current weight, the rise of the steps and how long the climbing workout lasts. But most people can expect to burn more than 200 calories in 30 minutes.
Doing the Math
The American Council on Exercise calculates that, for a basic stair-climbing workout, a 130-pound person can expect to burn about 235 calories in a half-hour climbing workout. If you have the stamina, that means that you'll get close to the 500-calorie mark in a full hour.
The ACE calculator shows that, the higher your current weight, the more calories you'll burn in a workout session. A 155-pound person uses an average of 285 calories per half-hour of climbing stairs. For a person who is 200 pounds, the calories burned figure jumps to about 365 calories per 30 minutes.
Comparing Walking and Stair Climbing
Walking is definitely a great way to get in some cardio, especially if you haven't worked out for a while or just need a low-impact day. But according to Harvard Health, if losing weight is a primary goal, you might want to spend at least some of your workouts on the stairs.
Harvard estimates that you can burn up to three times more calories climbing stairs than walking. In fact, you'll use about 50 percent more energy climbing stairs than you would walking briskly, walking up a steep hill or lifting weights.
So what's the bottom line? Keep in mind that ACE fitness calculators indicate that a 130-pound person burns 235 calories when climbing stairs for 30 minutes. If the same person were to walk briskly for the same amount of time, the count would be less than half that amount, or about 110 calories.
Read more: StairMaster vs. Treadmill
When Size Matters
How high you need to raise your feet when stair climbing also makes a difference. For instance, if you use a stair-step machine, the height setting on the steps influences how challenging the climb is. The same holds true for how tall each riser on a flight of stairs is.
The fitness database ExRx.net calculates that on a stair step that is 6 inches in height, a 130-pound person would burn 241 calories per half-hour climbing those stairs. That figure rises in "steps" (so to speak) of 10 to 20 calories for every inch of height that is added to the riser. Climbing a challenging set of 12-inch steps would burn about 320 calories per 30 minutes.
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Getting Started on Stairs
Not surprisingly, 30 minutes of stair climbing can be hard to sustain when you're just starting out — whether you're running up and down steps in the park, or using your fitness center's stair-climbing machine. Mayo Clinic suggests that, if you find yourself getting overly winded, you should break up this taxing workout into three or more 10-minute chunks, spread throughout the day. That way, you'll still rack up plenty of calories burned climbing stairs by bedtime.
As you build endurance, consider switching up your climbing routine to burn more calories and work different parts of your lower body while alternating high- and low-intensity paces. You can run up the staircase and then walk back down, for example. In addition, make some of your "laps" ones in which you go up and down sideways. To burn even more calories and get your upper body into the action, keep your arms off the railings. Pump them at your sides as you go.
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Calories Burned in 30 Minutes for People of Three Different Weights"
- American Council on Exercise: "Physical Activity Calorie Counter"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Your Steps to Health"
- ExRx.net: "Exercise Calories Burned Calculator"
- Mayo Clinic: "Does Taking the Stairs Count?"
- American Council on Exercise: "Try This High-Intensity Stair-Climbing Workout"
- Best Health: Fitness Trend: Stair-Climbing Your Way to the Top
- The Independent: Stair-Climbing: A Step Change in Keeping Fit