While some people avoid stairs at all costs, some of us see great value in using stairs to maintain, develop, and challenge our fitness. Obviously, stairs are not for everyone, particularly those with lower body joint dysfunction and those who are new to exercise.
So, how and when can you add stairs to take your workouts to the next level?
My last office job was on the sixth floor, and I took every opportunity to hit the stairs. This activity was in addition and outside of my regular workout. I used the stairs on my way in and out of the office. I did a few flights every break, and I also used the washrooms on other floors when I had the time. Considering that stairs are literally everywhere and accessible, it’s a fantastic economical option for staying fit!
Several years ago, I was the sports conditioning coach for an elite youth soccer academy. My greatest challenge was keeping a group of 45 teenagers excited and engaged about their next training session. For a change of pace, I had them run the stairs in the fitness center. I modified how they could move up and down the stairs and the intensity at which they moved. As a result, the athletes found a new way to compete with one another and a fresh way to challenge their incredibly fit bodies.
My community has a fantastic outdoor track facility; the viewing stands have safe, well-built stairs. I have taken clients there to walk, run, and lunge their way up those stairs. One client had a significant hike planned, and it was her first. Her goal was to enjoy her hiking experience thoroughly and not experience the dreaded soreness that she had heard about that comes from the switchbacks, rope bridges, and steep grades. Not only did she enjoy her hike immensely, but she also found that she was out hiking her group on the way up and the way down.
So, stairs are everywhere! But, again, using stairs as a training tool is not for the newly the recently active or those who are recovering from illness or surgery.
If you are not sure if your body is ready for hitting the stairs, check with your health care team. As with any new exercise, take it slow to start off with and focus on form and technique rather than speed and a high level of intensity.
There are many benefits of taking the stairs. Consider that climbing the stairs will strengthen and firm your legs and increase the blood flow to your legs as well. No matter the intensity, taking the stairs is a great cardiovascular workout. Using the stairs as a part of your workout routine will help you move your body composition in the right direction.
Some experts suggest that stair climbing is a better calorie burner than running!
Just as with my soccer stars, you can mix up your movement patterns on the stairs to target various muscles. Just be sure always to have a hand on the handrail and that at least one foot is always firmly planted on the stair tread. Use a standard stair-stepping technique to start, and focus on keeping a tall, lean posture. Next, push up with your legs, and reach a full leg extension.
Or, stand sideways on the stairs and do a side step up and down. Are you super fit? Try the plyometric move of hopping up the stairs two feet at a time; again, be sure that you are secure and well balanced. Another excellent option for the super fit is to try stair sprints; this is ultra-intense, so use caution. Can you perform a perfect lunge? Then, take those lunges to the stairs for an intense burn.
If you are looking for an inexpensive way to burn calories, strengthen your entire body, and firm up your buttocks, thighs, and calves, give stairs a try every time you see a flight!