This 30-Minute Workout Turns Your Stairs Into a Fat-Burning Machine

All you need for a good cardio and strength workout is your staircase.
Image Credit: Javier Snchez Mingorance / EyeEm/EyeEm/GettyImages

Before you spend hundreds of dollars on a piece of cardio equipment for your living room, take a look around. If you have a set of stairs in your house, you already have everything you need to get in shape.

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Not only are stairs ready-made for a calorie-torching cardio workout, but individual steps can be used for strength moves like lunges and step-ups for your lower body and push-ups and rows for your upper body.

And you don't have to spend hours doing it! Even a few short bouts of climbing stairs throughout your day can improve your heart health, according to a January 2019 study in Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism.

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Plus, you can burn close to 300 calories in 30 minutes, according to the American Council on Exercise (for a 155-pound person). That's works out to 235 calories for a 130-pound person and 365 calories for a 200-pound individual.

"Given how exhausting running a stairwell is, a blended circuit works best," says Fabio Comana, certified personal trainer and a faculty instructor for the National Academy of Sports Medicine.

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Try this total-body strength-and-cardio workout that mixes stair running and walking with strength exercises. All you'll need is medium-resistance exercise tubing (a resistance band will work) and a set of stairs.

Curious exactly how many calories you burn during your workouts? Download the MyPlate app for a more accurate and customized estimate.

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Warm-Up

Before you begin this workout, warm up by walking up and down the stairs for 3 to 5 minutes at a low-effort level (think 3 to 4 out of 10).

Strength-and-Cardio Stair Workout

Do:​ each of the following exercises in a circuit (performing one after another), taking minimal to no rest between each exercise. After you've completed the entire circuit, recover for one minute before repeating for three rounds total.

Tip

Use rate of perceived exertion (RPE) to gauge your effort: Imagine a scale from 0 to 10, with 0 being no effort and 10 being the hardest you can work.

1. Stairway Run

  1. Begin at the bottom of your staircase.
  2. Run or jog up the stairs and stop at the top.
  3. Walk down to catch your breath.
  4. Repeat this pattern for 30 seconds.

2. Push-Up

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Reps 12
Region Core and Upper Body
  1. Stand at the base of your stairs.
  2. Get into a high plank with your hands under your shoulders and feet on the stairs, body in a straight line from head to hips to heels.
  3. Bend your elbows at a 45-degree angle to you body and lower yourself until your chest hovers above the floor.
  4. Press into your palms and push back up into a high plank.

Tip

To modify this exercise, try an incline push-up by placing your hands on the first or second stair of your staircase. The higher the incline, the easier the exercise feels.

3. Stairway Run

  1. Begin at the bottom of your staircase.
  2. Run or jog up the stairs and stop at the top.
  3. Walk down to catch your breath.
  4. Repeat this pattern for 30 seconds.

4. Resistance Band Row

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Reps 12
Region Upper Body
  1. Anchor a long-loop resistance band to your stairway bannister, railing or other sturdy point.
  2. Hold the other end of the band in each hand at about shoulder-width apart.
  3. Pull the band toward you just below chest level and squeeze your shoulder blades together.
  4. Pause and return to starting position by extending your arms.

5. Stairway Run

  1. Begin at the bottom of your staircase.
  2. Run or jog up the stairs and stop at the top.
  3. Walk down to catch your breath.
  4. Repeat this pattern for 30 seconds.

6. Banded Biceps Curl

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Reps 12
Region Upper Body
  1. Stand in the middle of a resistance band and hold the other ends in each hand about shoulder-width apart.
  2. Keeping your elbows close to your ribs and locked in place, pull the band up toward your shoulders.
  3. Slowly lower back down to the starting position.

7. Recovery Cardio Interval

  1. Stand at the bottom of your staircase.
  2. Walk up the stairs at a moderate pace and stop at the top.
  3. Walk back down at the same speed.
  4. Repeat for 3 minutes.

8. Squat to Overhead Press

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Time 1 Min
Region Full Body
  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand at your shoulders.
  2. Push your hips back and bend your knees to about 90 degrees to lower into a squat.
  3. Press into your heels and push your hips forward to return to standing.
  4. As you return to standing, press the dumbbells overhead.
  5. Bring the dumbbells back to your shoulders and repeat.

Tip

No weights at home? No problem! You can use two filled water bottles or canned foods as a creative dumbbell alternative.

9. Stairway Run

  1. Begin at the bottom of your staircase.
  2. Run or jog up the stairs and stop at the top.
  3. Walk down to catch your breath.
  4. Repeat this pattern for 30 seconds.

10. Body-Weight Alternating Reverse Lunge

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Time 1 Min
Region Lower Body
  1. Stand on the bottom step with your feet about hip-width apart and your arms at your sides.
  2. Step your right leg back 2 to 3 feet behind you and bend your knees until they form 90-degree angles. Your back knee should hover above the ground and your front thigh should be parallel to the ground.
  3. Keep most of your weight in your front leg as you press into your left heel and straighten your left leg.
  4. Bring your right leg back to the step and stand up.
  5. Repeat the motion with your opposite leg and continue alternating for 45 seconds.

Cooldown

Once you're done, don't skip your cool-down routine. Walk up and down your stairs at an easy pace for 3 to 5 minutes. And, if you have the time, go through a few cool-down stretches, like side lunges and cat-cows.

Related Reading

More Quick Cardio Workouts

For a quick cardio routine when you're short on time, Mark Merchant, CSCS, recommends the following deceptively tough workouts:

10-Minute Basic Workout

  1. Warm up by climbing up and down the staircase for 5 minutes at a moderate pace.
  2. For the remaining 5 minutes, gradually increase your pace.

20-Minute Advanced Cardio Workout

  1. Walk up and down one flight of stairs.
  2. Run up and run down one flight.
  3. Jump up (two feet at a time) one flight.
  4. Carry weight (as heavy as you can manage) up and down one flight.
  5. Repeat this sequence for 20 minutes.

30-Minute Steady-State Cardio

This one is pretty simple: Walk up and down however many floors you can go up and down for 30 minutes. "Do this and you can do anything," Merchant says.

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