Stair-climbing: Exercise That Can Strengthen Your Heart

Got stairs? Got a gym.

Stair-climbing: Exercise That Can Strengthen Your Heart

You got a door, you got a gym. And now you can add ‘stairs’ to that list.

Kinesiologists at McMaster University and UBC Okanagan have just released their findings on the one exercise that can strengthen your heart’s health and ultimately help you live longer – stairclimbing.

Sure, you could argue that there’s a lonely Stairmaster in the gym most days of the week, but there’s practically stairs everywhere else from office buildings to shopping centres for people to tackle. The point the researcher are trying to push here is that people can now improve their health anytime and anywhere with just a few simple steps – literally.

The findings were published in the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism and highlight the benefits of ‘fitness snacking’ – the latest exercise trend that involves breaking your workouts down into short, digestible chunks.

“The findings make it even easier for people to incorporate ‘exercise snacks’ into their day,” says Martin Gibala, a professor of kinesiology at McMaster and senior author on the study.

“Those who work in office towers or live in apartment buildings can vigorously climb a few flights of stairs in the morning, at lunch, and in the evening and know they are getting an effective workout.”

Not everyone is convinced though.

In a recent story we did on the rise of ‘fitness snacking’, sceptics called out the effectiveness of these latest findings.

“Right, so people who can’t motivate to do one workout are now going to do multiple shorter workouts in the one day, which means getting changed and shower etc. multiple times for each of these mini workouts? Not going to happen,” commented 

“This ‘fitness snacking’ sounds like a dumb marketing attempt that someone is trying to cash in on. ‘Incidental exercise’ would be a better starting point than this.”

Nonetheless, researchers of the effectiveness of stairclimbing for better cardiovascular health say that it only takes around 10 minutes total a day to see results. This claim is based on previous data outlining the benefits of sprint interval training (SIT) which highlights brief bouts of vigorous exercise alongside a few minutes of recovery between these intense bursts.

Their own studies applied the SIT model to stairclimbing specifically in order to test its effectiveness against cardiovascular disease. In the experiment, one group of sedentary young adults (i.e. those who spent much time seated on a daily basis) were told to climb a three flight stairwell three times a day. These climbs were broken up with one-four hours of recovery.

The process was repeated for three times every week for six weeks with the subject’s fitness being tracked. Once they obtained the results, the researchers simply compared it to a similar control group who did not exercise.

“We know that sprint interval training works, but we were a bit surprised to see that the stair snacking approach was also effective,” says Jonathan Little, assistant professor at UBC’s Okanagan campus and the study’s co-author.

“Vigorously climbing a few flights of stairs on your coffee or bathroom break during the day seems to be enough to boost fitness in people who are otherwise sedentary.”

An improvement in overall strength was also another finding that the researchers highlighted via a maximal cycling test. These researchers say that they will be looking to uncover more snacking exercises and their effectiveness towards human health in the future.

Expect to see deadlifts in a future photocopier room near you.