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How Taking the Stairs Can Help Your Heart

Taking the stairs

A recent study has challenged previous studies which showed that short bouts of vigorous exercise, otherwise known as, sprint interval training (SIT) are effective when performed as a single session requiring a total time commitment of approximately 10 minutes.

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This study had a group of sedentary young adults vigorously climb a three-flight stairwell three times per day. They repeated this three times per week over the course of six weeks. Then the researchers compared their fitness levels to the control group who stayed sedentary and didn’t exercise. Their findings were published in the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism.

“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,” said Jonathan Little, assistant professor at University of British Columbia.

Climbing stairs actually helps you burn more calories every minute as compared to jogging and is a great form of cardio exercise. While climbing stairs, you work against gravity because you are lifting your entire body weight. In addition to cardio exercise, your leg muscles get a workout as well. One reason that climbing stairs can be technically challenging and considered a vigorous exercise is because oftentimes you are going from a state of rest to a state of elevated heart rate quickly. (Vigorous exercise means that your heart rate will be between 70-85% of your maximum heart rate.)

“The findings make it even easier for people to incorporate ‘exercise snacks’ into their day,” says Martin Gibala, professor at McMaster University in Canada. “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.”
So if you work in a building or live in a multi-level home or apartment with stairs, be sure to add some extra stair climbing at least 3 days per week as a heart-healthy exercise. If not, many gyms offer stationary stair climber machines or look for a park or accessible field with stairs and/or bleachers.