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Does Stair Climbing Burn More Calories Than the Treadmill?

author image Bethany Kochan
Bethany Kochan began writing professionally in 2010. She has worked in fitness as a group instructor, personal trainer and fitness specialist since 1998. Kochan graduated in 2000 from Southern Illinois University with a Bachelor of Science in exercise science. She is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, Certified Personal Trainer, Medical Exercise Specialist and certified YogaFit instructor.
Does Stair Climbing Burn More Calories Than the Treadmill?
Increase your pace to burn more calories on the treadmill.

A little cardio can go a long way. As little as 2 1/2 hours each week can lower your risk of disease and moderately impact your body weight, according to the American College of Sports Medicine. Treadmills and stair climbing machines are two common pieces of cardiovascular equipment found in gyms. In general, treadmill walking and jogging burn less calories than a stair climber, but running burns more than the stairs.

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Stair Climbing Machines

There are different types of stair climbing machines: stepper machines with side rails, stepper with high rails, rotating stairs with side rails and stepper with movable hand rails. They are all similar in that you use the large muscles of your lower body to push the steps, raise your heart rate and burn calories. A 160-lb. person can burn approximately 657 calories in one hour on a stair treadmill, or rotating stair machine, according to


Treadmills also use the muscles of your lower body for your workout. On a treadmill, you can choose to walk, jog or run. The same 160-lb. person walking at 3.5 mph burns approximately 277 calories per hour on a treadmill. If he increases his pace and jogs at 5.0 mph, he can burn up to 584 calories. Running at 8.0 mph, this 160-lb. person can burn up to 986 calories, significantly more calories than from jogging or using a stair climber.

Role of Intensity

The key to calorie burning is intensity. The higher your intensity, the greater the rise in your heart rate and the harder your body works. There is a positive correlation between heart rate and calories burned, which is illustrated by the increase in caloric burn from walking to jogging. On a treadmill, you can also increase your intensity by adding incline to simulate running uphill. Keep intensity moderate to high during your workouts to burn the most calories, as well as to gain the most health benefits.

Other Considerations

Your fitness level and body weight also affect how many calories you burn. If running is easy for you because you do it all the time, the stairs are going to probably burn more calories and vice versa. Change your activity to increase your caloric burn. Also, the heavier you are, the more calories you burn during a workout because your body has to work harder to move your weight. As you lose weight and become more fit, you will not burn as many calories during the same workout.

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