The StairMaster is an exercise machine that has either foot pedals that move up and down or a small staircase that revolves. Both machines simulate walking up stairs. Mayo Clinic considers stair climbing a weight-bearing activity that can help slow bone mineral loss and may control blood sugar. Using a StairMaster also burns calories.
What Cardio Does
The StairMaster is a cardiovascular machine. When you do cardio, you move your body in a repetitive motion for an extended period. This increases your internal body temperature and causes you to burn calories. With that being the case, the main function of the StairMaster is to promote weight loss.
Your Size Matters
Body size is a major contributor to caloric expenditure on the StairMaster. People who are larger naturally burn more calories than people who are smaller. This is even the case when you are resting. A 155-pound person, for example, burns about 223 calories in 30 minutes on the StairMaster. A 185-pound person burns about 266 calories in the same time frame, according to Harvard Health Publishing.
Calorie Burn Time Frame
Total caloric expenditure on the StairMaster depends on how long you work out. For example, a 125-pound person burns about 180 calories in 30 minutes and 540 calories in 90 minutes. To effectively maintain or lose weight, the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends a minimum of 150 minutes a week of moderately-intense cardio exercise or towards 300 minutes weekly for weight loss.
Raise Your Metabolic Rate
When you step up and down on the StairMaster, you bend your knee, hip and ankle joints simultaneously. This, in turn, causes you to recruit multiple muscles, such as the glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings and calves. By building muscle, you increase your resting metabolic rate — RMR — and burn calories at a faster pace when you are sitting still, according to ACE Fitness.
Intensity Plays a Role
The intensity of your workouts plays a role in the calories you burn on the StairMaster. Interval training, for example, is performed by alternating back and forth from a vigorous to low intensity. Not only does this cause you to burn a high amount of calories while you step, but the effect also lingers after your workout. This is called the excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, or EPOC. The more intensely you exercise, the greater the effect will be.
Create a Calorie Deficit
Weight loss takes place when you create a caloric deficit. This is achieved by doing cardio and by cutting back on your caloric intake. A reduction of 500 to 1,000 calories a day can lead to one to two pounds of weight loss a week, while never going below 1,200 calories a day for women and 1,500 for men, according to Harvard Health Publishing. Burning 500 calories a day on the StairMaster will cause you to lose an additional pound a week.
Lean on Tight
The StairMaster comes equipped with handrails for assistance when you first get onto the machine and for balancing yourself as you exercise. Leaning on the handrails while you step will make your workouts easier — but increase stress on your back and reduce your caloric expenditure.
- Mayo Clinic: "Step It Up: 7 Quick Stair Exercises to Do at Home"
- Health.gov: “Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd Edition”
- ExRx.net: "Stair Climber"
- ACE Fitness: "BMR Versus RMR"
- Harvard Health Publishing: “Calorie Counting Made Easy”
- Harvard Health Publishing: “Calories Burned in 30 Minutes for People of Three Different Weights”