Category Archives: stair climbing

Short bouts of stair climbing, exercise snacks, boost health – Studies

I wrote about ‘incremental exercise’ last year in which I enumerated my practice of walking back and forth while waiting for the elevator. You can read it – Incremental exercise – good or bad?

It just got harder to avoid exercise. A few minutes of stair climbing, at short intervals throughout the day, can improve cardiovascular health, according to new research from kinesiologists at McMaster University and UBC Okanagan.

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The findings, published in the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism, suggest that virtually anyone can improve their fitness, anywhere, any time.

“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. Continue reading

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Exercise tips from Tufts

The following were actually a sidebar in a missive from Tufts Health and Nutrition Letter. I thought they constitute a super summary for us folks who want to eat less; move more and live longer. I am very happy to add that I have incorporated a number of these into my lifestyle.

At the risk of sounding like Debbie Downer, I would like to point out that failing to exercise on a regular basis is one of the main causes of seniors falling down. This is because inadequate physical activities often lead to reduced bone mass and flexibility. It also contributes to the loss of your balance and reduced muscle tone. These problems often lead to difficulties in making proper movements, thereby resulting in the fall.

woman walking on pathway while strolling luggage

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All forms of physical activity count—not just structured workouts. Here are some ways to add more physical activity to your day:

Walk rather than drive to destinations you can reach on foot within 10 minutes (which will ensure walking a mile there and back).-Park wherever you first see a space at your destination, instead of driving around to find the closest one.

Take the stairs instead of the elevator.

Get up to turn the television on and off or change channels manually rather than using the remote.

Do stretches and exercises, or pedal a stationary bike, while watching television or listening to the radio.

Join a walking group in the neighborhood or at the local shopping mall. Recruit a partner for support and encouragement.

-At work, replace a coffee break with a brisk 10-minute walk.

Cut the grass with a push mower instead of a gas or electric mower.

-When traveling, stroll around the airport, train or bus station instead of sitting.

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Skip the coffee, take the stairs to feel more energized

I am a great believer in the benefits of stair climbing. Check out my post 5 Reasons stair climbing is good for you to read much more about it. Here are some neat further benefits of this simple, but not necessarily easy, exercise that you can do in lots of places.

A midday jolt of caffeine isn’t as powerful as walking up and down some stairs, according to new research from the University of Georgia.

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In a new study published in the journal Physiology and Behavior, researchers in the UGA College of Education found that 10 minutes of walking up and down stairs at a regular pace was more likely to make participants feel energized than ingesting 50 milligrams of caffeine-about the equivalent to the amount in a can of soda.

“We found, in both the caffeine and the placebo conditions, that there was not much change in how they felt,” said Patrick J. O’Connor, a professor in the department of kinesiology who co-authored the study with former graduate student Derek Randolph. “But with exercise they did feel more energetic and vigorous. It was a temporary feeling, felt immediately after the exercise, but with the 50 milligrams of caffeine, we didn’t get as big an effect.” Continue reading

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This Is Why Climbing Stairs Leaves You Breathless

Fascinating insights here into our mental and physical activities.

On a related note, I am an avid stair-climber and recommend this for good cardio and weight bearing exercise.

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If you would like to learn more about the benefits of stair-climbing, check out my series:

Stair-climbing is good for you – Part One

Stair-climbing is good for you – Part Two

Stair-climbing is good for you – Part Three

Stair-climbing is good for you – Part Four

Tony

Our Better Health

A flight of stairs can leave the fittest people feeling out of breath.

It’s happened to all of us: We’re running late for a meeting and it’s only one flight of stairs away, so we dash on up. But when we arrive at the meeting, we’re embarrassed to be huffing and puffing as if we had just sprinted for a mile. It was just one little flight of stairs!

If you’re tempted to take this as a sign that you need to hit the gym more often, think again: Even marathon runners can get winded by the sudden task of vaulting a flight of stairs quickly, because physical fitness has little to do with it. It’s also tempting to assume it’s just a matter of not warming up. Eh, not really.

What happens when we approach a flight of stairs, with the intention of darting up them quickly, is that…

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How Stair-Climbing Promotes Healthy Brain Aging – Study

I started writing about stair climbing more than two years ago when my  home town of Chicago suffered an unusually bitter winter. At the time I focused on the weight-bearing aspect of the exercise as well as the cardiovascular benefits. If you are interested, you can check out the beginning of a multi-part series of posts starting with: Five Reasons Stair-climbing is good for you – Part One.

So I was pleasantly surprised to see this Concordia study on how stair climbing benefits the brain and promotes healthy aging.

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Taking the stairs is normally associated with keeping your body strong and healthy. But new research shows that it improves your brain’s health too — and that education also has a positive effect.

In a study recently published in the journal Neurobiology of Aging, researchers led by Jason Steffener, a scientist at Concordia’s PERFORM Centre, show that the more flights of stairs a person climbs, and the more years of school a person completes, the “younger” their brain physically appears.

The researchers found that brain age decreases by 0.95 years for each year of education, and by 0.58 years for every daily flight of stairs climbed — i.e., the stairs between two consecutive floors in a building.

“There already exist many ‘Take the stairs’ campaigns in office environments and public transportation centres,” says Steffener. “This study shows that these campaigns should also be expanded for older adults, so that they can work to keep their brains young.”

For the study, Steffener and his co-authors used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to non-invasively examine the brains of 331 healthy adults who ranged in age from 19 to 79.

They measured the volume of grey matter found in participants’ brains because its decline, caused by neural shrinkage and neuronal loss, is a very visible part of the chronological aging process. Then, they compared brain volume to the participants’ reported number of flights of stairs climbed, and years of schooling completed.

Results were clear: the more flights of stairs climbed, and the more years of schooling completed, the younger the brain.

“This study shows that education and physical activity affect the difference between a physiological prediction of age and chronological age, and that people can actively do something to help their brains stay young,” he says.\

“In comparison to many other forms of physical activity, taking the stairs is something most older adults can and already do at least once a day, unlike vigorous forms of physical activity,” says Steffener, who is also a researcher at the Institut universitaire de gériatrie de Montréal.

“This is encouraging because it demonstrates that a simple thing like climbing stairs has great potential as an intervention tool to promote brain health.”

Regular readers know that I have keen interest in anything the promotes brain health. Here are some further posts you may want to read:

How Seniors Can Bolster Brain Power

You Can Slow Down Brain Drain

How to Have a Healthy Brain and Keep it

10 Ways to Love Your Brain – Alzheimer’s Association

Exercise Benefits the Brain – Chicago Tribune

What is a Defense Against and Aging Brain?

Tony

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Stair Climbing is Good For You – Part Four – ACSM

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.

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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.

Tony

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Stair Climbing is Good For You – Part Three – ACSM

I started climbing stairs in my building a couple of weeks ago and began writing about the experience shortly thereafter. You can read Stair Climbing Part One and Stair Climbing Part Two if you want to catch up.

In the past few weeks I have spoken with neighbors and readers about their stair climbing experience and in the process as many questions have been raised as answered. I went back to my friends at the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) for more info.

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I was lucky enough to get Henry N. Williford, Ed.D., FACSM, HFS, Department Head Physical Education/Exercise Science to give us some further observations. Mr. Williford is also the co-author with Michele Olson, Ph.D., FACSM 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.

Following is a list of my questions and his answers:

How does actual stair climbing compare with the machines? Is one more effective, healthier, safer?

Williford: The energy costs of stair climbing are based on the weight of the person, height of the step, and speed of stepping. There are stepping machines that are used for fitness development, and groups such as firefighters use the devices to evaluate job performance. Generally the stepping machines move at a designated rate and the person must keep up with the machine.  With treadmills or other devices the individual tends to be traveling on a flatter surface, unless the device is elevated.  As the incline goes up, the energy cost goes up greatly. I have not seen any data on a comparison of health or safety.  The benefits of physical activity are generally based on the total amount of work the person does.  The more work or energy spent the greater the benefit.  The ACSM has appropriate guidelines for individuals of different fitness levels and risk factors.

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? 

Williford: Five minutes does not meet the minimal ACSM guidelines for health. Individuals can do multiple 5 minute segments throughout the day to meet the daily 30 minute daily recommendation.  Intense exercise 3 days for shorter durations may be appropriate. However, any exercise is better than none.

Is there a difference in physical benefits between climbing 15 flights of stairs straight up vs. 15 flights by climbing three and and then descending two. I read some place on the web that a good way to climb stairs for a beginner (me) is to go up three flights and then down two and continue with that.

Williford: The energy cost of going down is approximately 1/3 of climbing up.  So the person would use more energy going up as compared to down.  Going down is what is called eccentric exercise. There is less energy use, but a greater risk of muscle soreness.

Speaking of down, is it a good idea to walk down stairs, or is it better, safer to take the elevator?

Williford: Avoid the elevator.  Going down stairs can add to the total amount of work.  Always use caution.

In conclusion, as regular readers know, I am a bicycle rider here in Chicago so I was interested in the effects stair climbing might have on my biking. I rode for the first time in the past few weeks yesterday after climbing stairs regularly in that period. I was absolutely aware of further strength in my legs to the point that I found myself checking the gear shift because I thought I was riding in too low a gear. So, anecdotally, I can attest that a just couple of weeks of climbing stairs has added to my strength pedaling the bike.

Tony

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5 Reasons Stair Climbing is Good For You – Part One

Regular readers know that I have been an avid bicycle rider for years. I logged over 7000 miles in the year just ended. And, I have not stopped riding. I have, however, begun a new exercise, for me – climbing stairs.

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Although this person is walking down the stairs, I don’t recommend it. You can develop knee problems among others.

How come? Well, the only drawback to cycling I know of is that it is not weight-bearing. So, while the aerobic activity benefits my cardiovascular system greatly, I get no benefits for my skeletal system. I need both and I just can’t get into weight workouts.

An additional benefit of  stair climbing over bike riding is that you can do it indoors so the weather conditions do not present a problem. Having just suffered through historic cold weather with much of the country, this is particularly relevant now. While current temps here in Chicago range in the mid 30’s, there is still a lot of snow, ice and slush around that makes for dangerous biking conditions.

So, what about climbing stairs? It burns more calories than running and doesn’t beat up your legs as much as running does. RunSociety says, “When you stair climb for exercise, you burn twice the fat in half the time than if you run and three times more than walking. An intense stair-climbing exercise session will produce more aerobic benefits in a shorter amount of time than running or walking. One hour of stair climbing will burn approximately 1000 calories.”

Nonetheless, you can climb at your own pace and still get a good workout.

A New York Times article by Dr. Harvey Simon on the heath sciences technology faculty at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and founding editor of the Harvard Men’s Health Watch, wrote, “What’s so special about climbing stairs? Researchers in Canada answered the question by monitoring 17 healthy male volunteers with an average age of 64 while they walked on the level, lifted weights or climbed stairs. Stair climbing was the most demanding. It was twice as taxing as brisk walking on the level and 50 percent harder than walking up a steep incline or lifting weights. And peak exertion was attained much faster climbing stairs than walking, which is why nearly everyone huffs and puffs going up stairs, at least until their “second wind” kicks in after a few flights.”
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