Does Step Climbing Thin the Thighs?

young fitness woman trail runner running up on mountain stairs
A woman is climbing up outdoor stairs. (Image: lzf/iStock/Getty Images)

Step climbing, whether climbing stairs or training on a stair climbing machine, is a high-intensity exercise that has a low-impact effect on lower body joints. Workouts increase muscular endurance while improving lower body muscle tone. As a cardio workout, there is an increased demand on heart and lung capacity along with an increase in calories burned. When combined with proper diet, step climbing reduces excess body fat and body weight, resulting in thinner thighs.

Muscles Used

While climbing stairs, your hips and your knees are bent and extended utilizing many muscle groups, primarily your quadriceps, the front of your thighs and buttocks. The workout is considered a form of resistance training, requiring your muscles to exert a force to overcome resistance. The stair climbing machine is a weight-bearing workout, using your body weight as resistance. Climbing steps requires a vertical transfer of your body weight, using your body weight and gravity as additional resistance.

Cardio Training Effects

As a cardio workout, step climbing places an increased demand on your heart and lungs to provide additional fuel, in the form of blood and oxygen, to meet the increased demand. Cardio workouts increase your metabolism, the rate at which your body burns calories. When the amount of calories burned is greater than the amount of calories eaten, stored body fat is converted into energy, resulting in a loss of body weight and body fat.

Training Guidelines

The Centers for Disease Control recommends up to five moderate weekly workouts of 30 minutes or three vigorous weekly workouts of 20 minutes. The stair climber machine, set at moderate intensities, is considered a moderate workout, while climbing stairs is considered a vigorous workout. Workouts should start with a warmup to gradually increase heart rate and respiration. Cool downs are suggested to gradually reduce heart rate and respiration after the workout. For beginning stair climbing workouts, the American Council on Exercise recommends intermittent workouts, starting with three 10-minute workouts throughout the day.

Proper Exercise Form

Proper form using a stair climber machine includes keeping your weight evenly distributed and avoiding leaning your body weight on your arms. Use a loose grip on the bars and avoid locking your elbows. Keep your knees slightly bent and lean your body slightly forward. For climbing steps, place your full foot on the steps, lean your body slightly forward and keep your knees slightly bent. Wear cross training shoes with adequate cushioning and flexibility. Maintain adequate hydration levels throughout the workout.

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