Exercise 101: Stair-climbingEn Español (Spanish Version)
is the leading cause of death in the United States, yet many of the associated risk factors are preventable. Controlling for certain risk factors such as
, lack of physical activity, and smoking could significantly reduce the prevalence of the disease.
Regular physical activity not only directly reduces your cardiovascular risk, it can also favorably affect your other risk factors, including
, glucose levels, and weight. In addition, making exercise a regular part of your lifestyle will help improve your overall cardiovascular fitness, making the system operate more efficiently. It can also boost your energy level and enhance your self-esteem.
Research has shown that regular aerobic exercise increases your fitness level and can help to prevent cardiovascular disease. It can also help reduce blood pressure and prevent diabetes and obesity. The American Heart Association recommends 30 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous-intensity aerobic activity on most days of the week. You can even accumulate your 30 minutes in 10 to 15 minute increments if you are short on time.
Typical aerobic exercises include the following:
- Brisk walking
- Circuit weight training
- Racquet sports
Read on to find out more about stair-climbing.
Climbing stairs is a great way to improve cardiovascular fitness because you can incorporate it throughout your day while at home, running errands, or at the gym on a stair-climbing machine. This will allow you to collectively expend extra calories throughout the day while strengthening your thigh muscles, hamstrings, hip flexors, and calf muscles.
Calories Expended During Stair-climbingActivity135 lb. Woman185 lb. ManClimbing for 20 min.163 calories224 caloriesClimbing for 30 min.245 calories336 calories
A note of caution:
When coming down a flight of stairs remember to place your foot on a slight angle (in terms of foot placement on the step) so your knees do not go too far over your toes.
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- Stand up tall with your hands resting lightly on the handrails.
- Keep feet on pedals. Do not let your heels hang off the back of the step and remember to push through the heel while doing the movement. Do not stay up on your toes.
- If you have problems with your balance, hold on to the side rails or other area on the machine designed as a place for your hands. In doing so, it is important to maintain good posture. Do not lean over or stick out your buttocks while performing this exercise; this will place undue pressure on the low back.
- Choose a comfortable stepping pace, usually 6 to 8-inch steps or 8 to 12- inch steps depending on your fitness level and leg strength.
- Do not use small baby steps or deep exaggerated steps while performing the exercise; find a step size that feels comfortable.
- Work at an intensity that promotes sweating but enables you to carry on a conversation.
Begin with two sessions per week of stair-climbing. Following a 5-8 minute gradual warm-up begin with low intensity stair-climbing for 10-15 minutes. Add five minutes (when able) per week. After three weeks, progress to three times per week for 20-30 minutes at a moderate intensity.
After each workout, stretch the hip flexors, thigh, hamstrings, and your calf muscles. Hold each stretch for 30-60 seconds.
Consult with your physician before starting any exercise program.
American College of Sports Medicine
Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology
Provincial Fitness Unit of Alberta
American College of Sports Medicine Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription.
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Bouchard C, Shephard RJ, Stephens T.
Physical Activity, Fitness, and Health: International Proceedings and Consensus Statement.
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Deaths and mortality. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/deaths.htm. Updated June 2010. Accessed May 9, 2011.
Hahn RA, Teutsch SM, Rothenberg RB, Marks JS. Excess deaths from nine chronic diseases in the US, 1986.
Physical activity: AHA scientific position. American Heart Association website. Available at: http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=4563. Accessed May 9, 2011.
Physical activity calorie calculator. American Council on Exercise website. Available at: http://www.acefitness.org/calculators/physical-activity-calorie-calculator.aspx. Accessed May 9, 2011.
Last Reviewed May 2011