What Are the Benefits of Running Stairs?

Businessman running up steps, sheltering under jacket, side view
Sometimes you have to run stairs. (Image: Michael Blann/DigitalVision/Getty Images)

In the famous movie Rocky, the main character runs up the stairs at Philadelphia's Art Museum and triumphantly raises his arms at the top. You don't have to be quite that dramatic after you finish your stair workout, but the feeling of accomplishment will still be there. Running up stairs is tough but it comes with benefits. You can quickly get into shape, burn calories and strengthen your legs without beating them up.

Staircases are in most homes, office buildings, schools and even gyms. They're free and just waiting to be used. If you like to run stairs you'll have variation built into your workouts if you choose different locations, since stairs have different widths and lengths. You can hold dumbbells or even bags of groceries as you go up your stairs to add some resistance.

Cardiovascular Benefits

Running stairs is one of the best ways to get your cardiovascular system into shape. That means your heart gets better at moving blood and oxygen around your body. As you go through your workout, your heart will beat faster and faster. Eventually, it gets to a point where it can't beat any faster. That's why your heart has another way to adapt to exercises like this.

To get blood through your body faster, your heart begins to expand more. The more it expands, the more blood it can pump through your body. It also gets better at contracting and pushing blood out. The faster you can get blood through your body, the faster you can get oxygen in and carbon dioxide out.

You'll get into shape quickly from running stairs because it's such an intense workout. When you run normally, you can actually use gravity to your advantage. Each time you plant a leg on the ground you're falling forwards with all of your weight onto that leg to keep your momentum going. That same momentum won't help much when you run stairs because you're going up as much as you're going forward.

Calorie Burning Benefits

Since running stairs is so difficult, you burn more calories than if you were running normally. Since it's more intense, a stair workout doesn't take as long as a running workout to burn the same number of calories. According to Health Status, a 140-pound woman will burn nine calories per minute when running stairs.

Less Muscle Damage

Running up stairs is actually easier on your legs than going back down. When you walk down your leg muscles have to stay tense and contract to prevent you from falling straight down. At the same time, they're stretching out and lengthening. When your muscle is contracting and stretching at the same time it causes a lot of damage and micro tears in your muscle.

Going up stairs, your leg muscles contract and shorten at the same time. Even though they're getting tired they're not getting damaged while you go up. That makes running stairs a great recovery day workout. You can get a great burn in your legs and lungs, work your heart and even sweat a little without causing damage to your leg muscles.

Health Benefits

Intense exercise, like running stairs, is very good for your health. It can lower your risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, stress and even depression. By making you healthier it can even increase your life expectancy. Not only that, but it makes daily tasks easier. You'll have more energy and be able to do things like hike, ski, swim and walk around for much longer.

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