When we go to the gym, we face a choice… Should we do an aerobic workout? Or strength exercises? Maybe a little of both?
Studies show they each have important and specific health benefits. Aerobic exercise is good for your heart and lungs. It lowers blood pressure, improves immunity and blood lipids, and it promotes vascular health.1
Strength training builds stronger bones and muscles. It helps you lose weight, promotes balance, and also helps lower blood pressure.2
A new study shows that one kind of exercise uniquely combines the benefits of both.
Researchers gathered postmenopausal women. Scientists did a detailed physical exam of the participants. They measured their arterial stiffness, blood pressure, lipids, weight, and leg strength.
Then the researchers had the women begin a regimen of stair climbing. They did short stair-climbing sessions two to five times a day, four days a week.
After one month, they retested the women. They found that stair-climbing provides benefits that straddle the line between aerobic and strength exercise. The subjects had:
- Improved arterial flexibility
- Increased lower body strength
- Lower blood pressure
- Better cholesterol and triglyceride readings
- Improved cardiorespiratory fitness
Dr. JoAnn Pinkerton is executive director of the North American Menopause Society. She led the study. Dr. Pinkerton noted that climbing stairs offers the muscle benefits of leg strength training along with the cardiovascular benefits of aerobic exercise.
4 Surprising Health Benefits of Stair Climbing
Other studies have shown that climbing stairs also:
- Lowers death risk. A Harvard study found that men who average at least eight flights of stairs per day had a 33% lower mortality rate than men who didn’t use stairs.3
- Triggers weight loss. Duke University researchers reported that climbing just two flights of stairs per day can lead to a 6-pound weight loss over one year.4
- Lowers stroke risk. One study found that the risk of stroke declined by 20% in men who climbed just three flights of stairs each day.5
- Builds bone health. A study in England of women ages 45 to 61 found that those who climbed a few flights of stairs a day had increased hip bone density.6
In the new study, the subjects climbed about 350-1,000 steps four days a week. It will take you only about 10-25 minutes to get the equivalent workout even if you go at a very slow speed of 40 steps a minute.7
You can use a stair-climbing machine. Or you can do it the old-fashioned way… If you live or work in a building with stairs, simply switching from the elevator to the stairs may effectively improve your health.