I just finished posting comments on questions I raised on stair climbing when I heard back from another of the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) experts. You can read Stair Climbing – Part Three here.
Michele Olson PHD, FACSM, Professor of Exercise Science at Auburn University Montgomery offered the following answers to the queries I asked in the previous post. Doctor Olson is also the co-author with Henry N. Williford, Ed.D., FACSM, HFS of the ACSM brochure Selecting and Effectively Using an Elliptical Trainer or Stair Climber which is available free at the link and contains a super rundown on using these machines.
How does actual stair climbing compare with the machines? Is one more effective, healthier, safer?
Olson: ACTUAL STAIR CLIMBING IS MORE INTENSE BECAUSE YOU ARE MOVING YOUR BODY FARTHER AND FARTHER AWAY FROM GRAVITY AT EACH STEP. MACHINES WITH REVOLVING STEPS TEND TO BE MORE VIGOROUS THAN PUSH-DOWN PEDAL MACHINES. BUT ALL OF THAT CAN VARY WITH THE SETTING USED ON ANY MACHINE.
As I usually do about 15 flights in around five minutes, I was interested in whether or not this was beneficial. I asked, is there a minimum time required to benefit from stair climbing? Is five minutes a session enough?
Olson: THERE ARE RESEARCH STUDIES WHERE PARTICIPANTS HAVE DONE MULTIPLE BOUTS OF 2 MINUTES OF STAIR CLIMBING AND REALIZED CHANGES IN FITNESS. AS ONE IMPROVES, ONE WOULD NEED TO SPEND A GREATER AMOUNT OF TIME.
Is there a difference in physical benefits between climbing 15 flights of stairs straight up vs. 15 flights by walking three flights up and then two flights down.
GOING DOWN STAIRS IS ABOUT ONE FOURTH OF THE DEMAND AS GOING UP. SO IF A TOTAL OF 15 FLIGHTS ARE TAKEN UP AND THEN A FEW FLIGHTS ARE DONE IN A REVERSE, THAT WOULD BE MORE DEMANDING THAN JUST 15 UP. BUT DOING 10 FLIGHTS UP AND FIVE DOWN WOULD NOT BE COMPARABLE TO 15 ALL UP.
Speaking of down, is it a good idea to walk down stairs, or is it better, safer to take the elevator?
Olson: SURE. WE HAVE TO WALK UP AND DOWN OFF CURBS, IN AND OUT OF CARS, ETC. PEOPLE WITH BAD KNEES MIGHT NEED TO TAKE THE ELEVATOR DOWN, OR, DO A FEW FLIGHTS DOWN AND THEN JUMP ON THE ELEVATOR. BUT A MIX OF UP AND DOWN MIMICS REAL LIFE AND REAL MOVEMENTS DURING DAILY LIFE.
Many thanks to Dr. Olson for these very helpful insights.
4 responses to “Stair Climbing is Good For You – Part Four – ACSM”
Within the first eight floors of climbing my heart rate would go from just over 40 (good gene pool) to 150. I still despise that rapid jump! I will say that when training regularly my heart rate would drop 60-80 bpm within two flights descending. Loved the fact that I can recover quickly…worth the discomfort on the way up. On my best days I’d climb on-stop for an hour, playing games with numbers of flights, single vs double steps, etc. starting all over for a March event. See you at the Willis Tower climb in November? Great event!
HI, Lisa – Thanks for your comment. I have a similar experience to yours when climbing. My heart rate jumps from around 60 to 110 inside of three floors. Then when I turn around and go down the beats per minute go back to around where I started. I attribute that to not doing much of a warm up when I start as I live in a high rise and simply walk down the hall to the stairway. I am going to try warming up and see if that doesn’t reduce the spread. I agree with you about the numbers, too. I count them between landings. Also, since I go up three and down two, I am constantly working out how many total flights I have gone. I’m not sure about doing an event yet.
That said, could you please edit Dr Olson’s responses to not be in all caps? It’s really hard to read, and comes across as yelling to those of us who use technological based communication frequently. I myself tuning out during the first reply because he was so hard to read.
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Thanks for your comment. Sorry for your discomfort. That was the way that the Dr. sent the responses to me. I agree about the slight discomfort in reading them, however, I wrote it some years ago and of all the folks who have read it no one has ever complained before, so I am going to leave it. The good news is that there aren’t any other items like that.