Natural movement is of course great for everyone and no matter what your age or ability it can be manipulated to suit your requirements.
Walking up and down the stairs is a pretty basic movement, however many of us tend to choose the lift as it is quicker, or perhaps we just aren’t in the best of health to manage it. Mostly we are rushing around doing things much faster than we really need to and are actually quite capable of walking up the stairs. Stop and think for a moment, can you remember a time you had to go up a few floors in a building, did you take the lift or did you go for the stairs? If you picked the latter was it really that horrific? Or did you actually feel better for doing it, even a little invigorated?
One study from the British Journal of Sports Medicine analysed the effects of short bouts of stair running in the cardiovascular system, blood lipids, and the metabolism. The results showed an increase in VO2 Max which is the level of efficiency at which the heart, lungs, and muscles perform.
Personally I love taking the stairs, it’s a great opportunity to add a little bit more movement into my day, especially if I have been a little more sedentary than I would have liked. I love how you can really feel it in your thighs when you reach the top. Picture the scene from the movie Rocky when he blasts his way up the steps in Philadelphia, pure elation. There is obviously good reason to add this in to workouts.
How fast you go is up to your individual health status, but some of the benefits from stair running are fantastic. If you are struggling with the squat movement or even the lunge, stair running will actually strengthen the same muscles but on top of this it will help to increase lung capacity and strengthen the heart.
I posted an article a while back on short bursts of sprinting being beneficial for a number of reasons, stair running carries some of the same returns – such as building more mitochondria, the little energy power houses of our cells, and leaning out body composition. I personally like the idea of it helping to strengthen my thighs. Squats for myself have never come easy, I think it is because I am quite tall, I’m more of a deadlift kind of girl. Therefore building in more strength and conditioning can help you in other areas.
What we all like to know is where is the science behind the claims and what studies have been carried out showing positive results? One study from the British Journal of Sports Medicine1 analysed the effects of short bouts of stair running in the cardiovascular system, blood lipids, and the metabolism. These women were healthy, but fairly sedentary, and carried out this training for 8 weeks. The results showed an increase in VO2 Max which is the level of efficiency at which the heart, lungs, and muscles perform. There was also a reduction in LDL cholesterol. The great takeaway from this study is that the training carried out can easily be incorporated into the working day. So it is amazing to think that by just adding in a little stair movement to your day can result in a decrease in your risk of certain health concerns. When you are fit and strong increasing the speed of the stair climbing just takes the benefits up another level.
Top Benefits of Stair Running/Sprinting
- It is easy to find a flight of stairs.
- It can be quite high intensity, giving you real bang for your buck, and will not take long to complete.
- It is a full body workout, more intense than walking as you are pushing against gravity and can use your arms on the bannister.
- Can be adapted to meet your needs or ability level.
- Excellent for athletes looking to build on their leg muscles. A real strength builder exercise outside of their normal sport.
Workouts You Can Try
Try to find a flight of stairs that take around 30 seconds to climb.
Stick to walking pace, walk up all of the stairs and immediately walk back down again, as long as you feel comfortable, repeat 4 times making sure to feel refreshed before each set.
Stride up the stairs 2 at a time, fast walking pace but not quite running, immediately walk back down again, repeat 4 times, making sure to feel refreshed before each set.
Run up the stairs as fast as you can, skipping desired number of stairs if you can manage it. Descend at a comfortable walking pace, repeat 4 times, making sure to feel refreshed before each set. (Listen to your body, being careful not to trip.)
Interestingly Stair Climbing has become a sport in Australia and other parts of the world, they have races with different elevations and flights of stairs with many events raising money for charity.
So the next time you are greeted with a flight of stairs are you going to bound your way up, or take the lift? Why not let us know by leaving a comment below.
- Wallace, W. F. M., Boreham, C. A. G., Kennedy, R. A., Murphy, M. H., Tully, M., and Young, I. (2005). Training effects of short bouts of stair climbing on cardiorespiratory fitness, blood lipids, and homocysteine in sedentary young women. In British Journal of Sports Medicine, 39(9), pp. 590–593. Retrieved from http://bjsm.bmj.com/content/39/9/590