Once the darling new star of the gym, stair steppers may have lost ground to the newer design of elliptical machines. Still, you can usually find at least a couple of them gathering dust in the corner. That's good news because stair steppers -- the generic term for devices such as the StairMaster, introduced in 1983 -- have a lot to offer.
The simulated vertical trajectory of climbing stairs requires more effort than, for example, walking on a treadmill, and that sets you up to burn more calories. Plus, stair steppers make the glutes, hip abductors and upper legs feel an additional burn -- a definite bonus for many people, since firming up the derriere tops many lists of fitness goals.
While exercise can give your weight-loss efforts a huge boost, it's important to remember that it's very difficult to lose weight by exercise alone. Think of the stair stepper as your ally in a lifestyle makeover that will help you shed excess weight while gaining surplus energy.
Exercise, Weight Loss and Stair Stepping
To lose a pound of weight, you must burn 3,500 calories more than you ingest. According to the healthstatus.com calories burned calculator, a 140-pound woman workout out on a stair step machine burns calories at a rate of 420 per hour, or 7 calories a minute.
Theoretically, she'd lose just under a pound a week if she did that daily, which adds up to significant weight loss over time. The problem is that relying solely on exercise for weight loss seems to kick up some obstacles because of the strong tendency to compensate for intense exercise with intense eating, which negates any deficit the exercise provides.
While 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise is recommended simply to maintain good health, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) says that's just the minimum for overweight adults who want to lose weight. It's when you get above 250 minutes that the weight loss benefits really kick in, according to the ACSM, which also recommends cutting calories by a mere 200 a day to really enhance your progress.
Always warm up before you go full-bore by setting the machine to low intensity for your first 10 minutes. A proper warm-up means your better oxygenated and ready to go into high gear during the bulk of the workout and you'll be far less prone to injury.
Get a Boost from HIIT
You might also try mixing in some high intensity interval training (HIIT). This aerobic training technique involves short bursts of high intensity effort interspersed with intervals at a slower pace. HIIT has been shown to substantially boost calorie expenditure while lowering cholesterol and improving insulin sensitivity, the latter in itself easing the way for weight loss.
Step Up Your Weight Loss with Diet
Most people find it easier to lose weight by knocking 500 to 1,000 calories a day out of their diet than to spend an hour each day on a stair stepper. Do that (in addition to at least the minimum 150 minutes a week on the stair stepper) and you'll lose roughly 1 to 2 pounds a week, which just happens to fall neatly into the National Institute of Health's recommendations for healthy weight loss. Lose weight much faster than 2 pounds a week and you run the risk of rebound weight gain.
Substitute a side salad for fries at lunch and you're probably more than halfway there. And yes, what you eat does matter. Choose whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables and lean protein over refined starch and processed foods to walk a much straighter road to your ideal weight.