What Are the Health Benefits of Climbing Stairs?

Your heart, lungs and even your waistline all benefit when you perform aerobic exercise. While walking on a level surface represents a safe form of aerobic activity and is ideal for beginners, trainers often recommend deviating from your normal walk to climb stairs. Stair climbing burns more calories than a traditional walk and increases your chance to achieve weight loss. Understand the benefits and risks of climbing stairs in order to plan your fitness routine.

A woman jogging up stairs outside. (Image: fatchoi/iStock/Getty Images)

Stair Climbing Health Benefits

Aerobic workouts that feature stair climbing offer a variety of benefits to your overall health. The vigorous and continuous movement of your legs and hips results in deeper breathing and increases your heartbeat, which enhances blood flow to all areas of your body. Your body releases natural pain relievers, or endorphins, during a stair climb, so you'll feel better and have less tension. Doctors also recommend stair climbing as an ideal way to improve your energy, increase the function of your immune system and lower your risk for diabetes, high blood pressure, osteoporosis and heart disease.

Weight and Increased Challenge

Harvard Medical School reports that stair climbing is an effective way to lose weight and keep it off, since people who walk up stairs, even at a slower pace, burn calories three times faster than when walking at a faster speed on a normal surface. A workout on the stairs also provides maximum challenge for people who already maintain good fitness, including football players and other athletes, since the activity is estimated to be twice as vigorous as lifting weights or walking on a steep incline.

How Much You’ll Need

Fitness experts usually recommend between 30 and 60 minutes of aerobic activity like stair climbing on three to five days every week in order to gain the most health benefits. Start at a slow pace and aim to walk only a few flights until your body feels ready for an increased challenge. Protect your feet during stair workouts by wearing shoes with a firm heel, thick soles and sufficient arch support and aim to spend at least five minutes walking normally at a slow pace to warm your muscles. Consider alternating your stair climbing with aerobic methods like bike riding or swimming in order to prevent muscle overuse and limit joint strain.

Not for Everyone

While stair climbing offers a variety of health benefits, the vigorous activity may be unsafe for people with heart conditions, as well as for those with knee, hip or ankle problems. Discuss stair climbing with your doctor in advance of any activity and lower your risk for injury by using the railing for balance. Use extreme caution when traveling downward, as your knees and ankles are subjected to stress that equals at least six times your normal body weight, according to the New York Times.com.

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