A Science-Backed Reason to Take the Stairs Today

Just 60 seconds of stair climbing improves cardiorespiratory fitness.

When you leave your apartment. When you exit the train station. When you get to work and head up to your office on the ninth floor. When you go out to grab lunch.

Those are just a handful of the many opportunities you have every single day to take the stairs … all before 1 pm.

Why should you (and your lazy ass that prefers the elevator) care? Because a new study published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that brief, intense bursts of stair climbing is a practical way to boost fitness and has major benefits for heart health.

Which negates two of your best excuses for not getting in shape: you have no time and no gym membership.

Let’s back up a bit: It’s old news that vigorous stair climbing can torch calories and improve our physical fitness. It’s also nothing new that interval training is an efficient and surprisingly effective way to give your health a major boost. But much of the previous research has only looked at sustained periods of activity. You know, like hitting the Stairmaster for 30 minutes at the gym, or taking a 40 minute HIIT class.

So the scientists set out to determine if these benefits are still applicable for short bursts as well—like walking up the four flights to your office. It leaves your quads—and your lungs—burning, that’s for sure, but are you suffering for a purpose? Is it really making an impact on your overall health?

The answer is yes.

The researchers found that sprint interval training (SIT), which involves brief bursts of vigorous exercise separated by short periods of recovery, was an effective and time-efficient alternative for improving cardiorespiratory fitness.

To come to this conclusion they conducted two experiments. First, they compared the results of three, 20-second bouts of continuous climbing in an ‘all-out’ manner with the same intervals using an exercise bike (which has already been shown to improve fitness). For the second experiment, they had participants vigorously climb up and down one flight of stairs for 60 seconds. Both experiments (each involving a total time commitment of 30 minutes a week) increased cardiorespiratory fitness, which is an important healthy marker that is linked to longevity.

Let us repeat that: Just one minute of stair climbing had a positive effect on heart health.

Unless yesterday was leg day (and you’re hobbling around), you now have absolutely no excuse to default to the stairs.

Time to get steppin’.



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