Stair climbing is an excellent cardiovascular workout benefiting many muscle groups including your calves and hamstrings, glutes and if you utilise the handrail, you can also give your arms a good workout!  It doesn’t take much to get your heart racing and therefore can be treated more like an HIIT workout in that you don’t have to be doing it for a long time – even just 15mins of stair climbing will significantly improve your overall health and fitness.

High Benefits, Low Impact

One of the biggest benefits of all, which often surprises people, is that it is low impact, significantly lower than running, and can even be done if you are suffering other soft tissue injuries such as calf and hamstring strains that might be preventing you from running. Stair climbing exposes the legs, ankles and knees to less pressure from impact than running on concrete. Running places a considerable amount of pressure on the feet, as well. Stair climbing offers the benefit of less impact to the body while reaping more aerobic and muscle-building benefits.

For those looking to improve their running, stair climbing can help to build more power in your legs and improve your body’s tolerance to lactic acid….and running on the flat then seems easy in comparison!

When you stair climb for exercise, you burn twice the fat in half the time than if you run and three times more than walking. An intense stair-climbing exercise session will produce more aerobic benefits in a shorter amount of time than running or walking. One hour of stair climbing will burn approximately 1000 calories.

By raising our heart rate, stair climbing helps protect against high blood pressure, weight gain and clogged arteries. It also exercises our bones and muscles, improving strength, bone density and muscle tone.

Incidental physical activities like stair climbing are also associated with improved mental health. They cause our bodies to release endorphins, the so-called feel-good hormones. They also provide time think and reflect – key factors in managing everyday stress and tensions.

Tips for Beginners

  1. Get clearance from your doctor that you are OK to proceed.
  2. Start small and build up, so first try walking the stairs for around 10-15mins in total (roughly equivalent to 2-3 times a 30 storey building or 400-600 stair in total).  If you become too short of breath, take a short break on the way up before continuing.
  3. Over time, as your body adapts you should try taking 2 stairs at a time and/or alternating by jogging 1 stair at a time and adding more stairs to the session.  To go faster it is best to take 2 stairs at a time and use the handrail.  You can mix things up by doing short bursts of stairs (ie sprint 100 stairs) take a 1-2 min break and sprint another 100 stairs and repeat.
  4. Try to train in a building so you can catch the lift down as walking downstairs can be tough on your knees (although like anything you could slowly build up to walking down as well).

Contributing Author:

Suzy Walsham

Towerrunning World Champion

ranked #1 in the world for the last 7 years