We are all in search of an easy, convenient form of exercise that builds up our body without forcing us to go to the gym. Studies now show that climbing stairs can be an effective form of exercise, and if done correctly, can effectively work out the muscles in your legs as well as your arms, shoulders, back, and chest. So the next time you’ve got a choice between stairs and an elevator, keep these tips in mind and get in a quick workout.
1. Always start out slow
Stair climbing can be an extraordinarily strenuous activity, especially for those not in the habit of exercising or climbing stairs in particular, or anyone struggling with a preexisting medical condition, such as weakened ankles or arthritis of the knee. After checking with the relevant doctors, taking the stairs may still be the best option for you to exercise. Just ensure that you begin with a shorter goal, approximately 25 steps or so, and gradually increase your workout over time.
2. Posture is everything
Whether you’re going up or down the stairs for your workout, the way you hold yourself and maintain posture is extremely important. To ensure that your body gets the most from the movement, it is essential to keep your back straight and your core muscles tight, allowing your legs to do the majority of the work while also strengthening your abs.
3. How many stairs is too many?
When you get in the habit of regularly climbing the stairs, and you’re ready to really make a workout out of it, you may wonder how to go about it. Is it better to go up and down 2, 3 or 12 flights of stairs (if you live in a tall enough building)? The choice is up to you at the end of the day, but keep in mind a few things.
Climbing stairs quickly is more beneficial than a slow climb. Your legs are also more likely to tire out as you climb more flights of stairs. If you’re looking for a number, a 2005 study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine determined that eight flights of stairs climbed 5 days a week for 2 months significantly improved aerobic capacity and cholesterol levels.
4. Is it better to go up or down the stairs?
As going up the stairs requires you to pump your legs more, it is the tougher of the two activities and pushes your body more, much like how running pushes the body more than walking. However, a study in Taiwan has determined that climbing down the stairs can be as beneficial, if not more, than climbing up, especially for the front thigh muscles, also called the quadriceps. Climbing down does tend to put more pressure on the knees so it’s very important not to lock your knees when climbing down.
Once you get accustomed to the frequent climbing, and only if you have a good sense of balance, swinging your arms can add to your workout. Swinging your arms while climbing up the stairs can help you increase your momentum as you move, and also strengthens your chest, shoulders, and back.
6. Should You Avoid the Railings?
The railings of the staircase can actually be beneficial to your workout. In case you don’t have a great sense of balance or are still in the process of developing it, lightly holding the railing while climbing is advisable. Making use of the railing can also help you increase your speed. For the more proficient stair-climbers, using the railings to pull yourself up the steps can give you a solid upper body workout.
7. Two Steps are better than one
Once you get comfortable moving up and down the stairs, it may be time to step up your game. Literally. If you’re ready for a challenge, climbing up two steps at a time will help you burn more calories and also tones the muscles in the quadriceps and buttocks. However, climbing two steps at a time can be a strain on your knees and also lead to other injuries if you have short legs or do not stretch adequately prior to doing the exercise.
8. Can’t I just use a Stairmaster?
There are lots of machines available nowadays that allow you to experience the activity of climbing stairs from the comfort of your own home. These machines can be beneficial for anyone suffering from medical conditions like arthritis, as they put less pressure on the hips, ankles, and joints. However, climbing real stairs is better for strengthening your joints and allowing your body room for a full range of motion.