It’s the start of a new year, and for a lot of us, that means re-prioritizing our health and wellness. That said, many of us are guilty of falling into crazy January fads that force us to cut back on large amounts of food, which serves to be more detrimental than beneficial to our health. Therefore, it’s important to remember that the best way to adopt a healthy lifestyle is slowly. Picking up simple and easy habits that you can maintain throughout the year is the best way to ensure a healthy 2020. That said, an easy habit that you can pick up that will surely benefit your health throughout the year is choosing to always take the stairs.
Not only are they often easily accessible (and free), but choosing to take the stairs in 2020 can have a profound effect on your health throughout the year. In fact, an article from Harvard University revealed that walking up the stairs was more demanding – in fact, twice as taxing as brisk walking and 50% more difficult than lifting weights. With that said, perhaps the only fitness resolution you should have this year is to avoid the elevator at all costs.
Benefits of Taking Stairs
1. Improved heart and lung health
Do you ever feel that your breathing deepens as you climb the stairs? Well, that’s because climbing stairs can strengthen both your heart and lungs, forcing them to take in more oxygen. As a result, your heart then pumps more oxygen-rich blood into all your muscles and organs, and that’s just the half of it.
In fact, according to a study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism, spending just a few minutes climbing the stairs at short intervals throughout the day can help to boost your cardiovascular health. This is because climbing stairs has been found to lower blood pressure, as well as levels of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol (1).
2. Healthy bones and joints
As we age, our bones tend to lose more density and mass. Therefore, it’s important to help maintain the health of our bones in any way that we can. One of the best ways to do so would be by regularly taking the stairs.
According to research found in the Biomed Research International journal, climbing the stairs – which is a weight-bearing exercise – was found to help increase bone mass.
3. Great calorie burner
As it’s such a vigorous-intensity exercise, taking the stairs can burn a lot of calories.
In fact, even taking the stairs at a slow pace will help you burn calories three times faster than walking on a level surface.
4. You’ll live longer
Could taking the stairs be the secret to longevity? A study from Harvard Health seems to think so.
The study, published in Preventive Medicine Reports, involved over 8,000 men aged between 65 and 71 and found that climbing the stairs was associated with a lower risk of mortality from any cause.
5. You’ll be happier
Climbing the stairs is a form of physical activity, doing it on a regular basis can help to release endorphins. Endorphins are brain chemicals that have been found to alleviate pain, discomfort, and stress. They’re great stress relievers, and they can help to improve your mental health.
In fact, low levels of endorphins have been linked to an increased risk of depression (2). That said, if the new year has you feeling a bit low, perhaps taking the stairs may serve to boost your mood.
6. Strengthens your muscles
Climbing the stairs makes use of all the muscles in your legs, as well as activating the muscles in your back. As a result, you get an intensive muscular workout, all whilst improving the health of your musculoskeletal system.
In fact, a strong musculoskeletal system can help to improve your coordination, increase bone density, reduce the risk of injury, alleviate your bones, as well as boost your metabolism.
The bottom line
Opting to take the stairs, or using the stairs as a form of exercise, is really an easy and effective way to improve your fitness level, all whilst enhancing your cardiovascular health. What’s more, it’s not just going up the stairs that can improve your health.
According to a study published in the Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise journal, climbing down the stairs can also help to levels of blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, bone density, as well as enhance functional fitness.
With the aforementioned in mind, if you really care about your health in 2020, you may want to make sure that you take as many stairs as you can this year.
Benedetti, M. G., Furlini, G., Zati, A., & Letizia Mauro, G. (2018). The Effectiveness of Physical Exercise on Bone Density in Osteoporotic Patients. BioMed research international, 2018, 4840531. doi:10.1155/2018/4840531
Boreham CAG, Kennedy RA, Murphy MH, et al. (2005) Training effects of short bouts of stair climbing on cardiorespiratory fitness, blood lipids, and homocysteine in sedentary young women British Journal of Sports Medicine ;39:590-593.
Chen, T, Hsieh, C. Tseng, K., et al. (2017). Effects of Descending Stair Walking on Health and Fitness of Elderly Obese Women. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 49. 1. 10.1249/MSS.0000000000001267.
Hegadoren K.M. O’Donnell, T, Lanius, R, et al, (2009) The role of β-endorphin in the pathophysiology of major depression, Neuropeptides, Volume 43, Issue 5, Pages 341-353, ISSN 0143-4179, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.npep.2009.06.004.
Jenkins E, Nairn L, Skelly L, Little J., et al. (2019) Do stair climbing exercise “snacks” improve cardiorespiratory fitness? Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism,, 44:681-684, https://doi.org/10.1139/apnm-2018-0675
Rey-Lopez J, Stamatakis E, Mackey M, et al, (2019), Associations of self-reported stair climbing with all-cause and cardiovascular mortality: The Harvard Alumni Health Study, Preventive Medicine Reports, Volume 15, 100938, ISSN 2211-3355, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pmedr.2019.100938
Wong, A., Figueroa, A.,et al. (2018). The effects of stair climbing on arterial stiffness, blood pressure, and leg strength in postmenopausal women with stage 2 hypertension. Menopause. 25. 1. 10.1097/GME.0000000000001072.