Stair climbing has been promoted as one of the easiest and most economical form of exercise. Some workplaces have also promoted stair climbing to employees as part of their workplace physical activity programme.

Stair climbing can boost cardiovascular health

A recent study conducted by researchers from McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, showed that short, intense bursts of stair climbing may help individuals to maintain a healthy heart.

In the study, over 30 women (who were sedentary, but otherwise healthy) underwent two different stair climbing protocols, each requiring a merely 10-minute time commitment including warm-up, cool down and recovery periods. Researchers found that both protocols were effective in increasing cardio-respiratory fitness.

Single-step stair climbing increases calorie expenditure

In terms of energy expenditure, an interesting finding from another study published in 2012 suggests that single-step stair climbing is better than two-step stair climbing. Researchers measured the heart rate of 14 participants that took part in the study to obtain an estimate of the amount of energy expended.

For instance, climbing a 15-metre high stairway five times a day is equal to an energy expenditure of 302 kcal per week when climbing one step at a time, and 266 kcal when climbing two steps in one stride.

Stair climbing boosts energy levels and motivation more than caffeine

Many people rely on coffee and other caffeine-filled beverages for a boost of energy throughout the day. However, researchers Derek D. Randolph and Patrick J. O’Connor from the University of Georgia found that a brief session of low-to-moderate intensity stair climbing can give momentary energising effects. In fact, it provided more energy than a low dose of caffeine.

The study was conducted among college women aged between 18 and 23 years with chronic sleep deprivation (less than 45 hours per week). In one setting, subjects were asked to complete tests to evaluate their working memory, attention, reaction time, work motivation and mood states after consuming a capsule which contained 50 milligrams of either caffeine or flour (a placebo).

In another setting, participants completed the tests after walking up and down 30 floors of stairs at a regular pace for about 10 minutes. Results showed that participants who undertook stair climbing reported a higher motivation to work and had a greater increase in energy compared to those who consumed caffeine.

Stair climbing may enhance neurological health

Stair climbing has been shown to boost brain health as well, as demonstrated by researchers at Concordia University, Canada.

The study shows that the more flights of stairs a person climbs, the “younger” their brain physically appears. Researchers used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and examined the volume of grey matter found in the brains of over 300 healthy adults, ranging from 19 to 70 years of age.

The decline of the grey matter is known to be an obvious part of the chronological ageing process. Based on the results, brain age decreases by 0.58 years for every daily flight of stairs climbed (the stairs between two consecutive floors in a building).

All in all, the above findings clearly illustrate the numerous benefits of stair climbing as a simple yet very effective exercise. This can benefit patients with various health conditions.

The fact that it is not an exercise that needs special, expensive equipment or requires a huge amount of time to perform makes stair climbing a great exercise routine. For patients, it can be encouraged as part of the strategy and intervention to attain the optimal level of physical activity. MIMS

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