If you want a vigorous workout but have no time to get to the gym, just head for the nearest staircase. Climbing stairs at a fast pace, such as jogging or walking briskly, provides an effective cardiovascular workout that will strengthen your entire lower body at the same time. Gravity works as resistance on the stairs; the vertical element of stair climbing forces your muscles to work in a different way than they would with forward movements, such as running. Increase your strength and conditioning with stair climbing.
Walk up and down one flight of stairs for four or five minutes to warm your legs and get your heart rate up. The up and down motion provides a steady pace, allowing you to ease into your workout rather than fatiguing your muscles too soon.
Climb the stairs, two or three at a time. Taking larger steps helps you to increase your balance and agility while also strengthening your core, glutes, hamstrings and quadriceps. Ascend three to four flights of stairs and then slowly jog back down to recover. Perform three sets.
Run stairs. This will provide intense cardio workout while also strengthening your glutes and legs. You may find that your endurance is less than that of running on flat ground; start slow and gradually increase your pace and duration over time. Increase your duration gradually; a general running guideline is to increase your time or distance by 10 percent each week. Therefore, if a challenging yet doable stair run is 10 minutes, try to increase the time to 11 minutes the following week. Similarly, if you are able to keep a jog going for 10 flights of stairs, aim for 11 flights next week.
Insert sprinting intervals into your workout. Run up one flight of stairs as fast as you are able and walk back down to recover. Maintain proper form to help maximize speed by staying on the ball of your foot when accelerating and engaging your core. Aim for three to five sprints, depending on your fitness level. Attempt to increase the number of sprints you perform each week by one or two.
Perform lunges on the stairs. Step your right foot onto the second or third stair. Bend both knees so the right knee is at a 90-degree angle and the left knee is just above the ground. Push into your right foot to lift your left and bring it forward, two to three stairs in front of the right. Continue for one to two flights of stairs.
Side-step your way up the stairs. Stand with your right side facing the stairs. Place your right foot on the first stair and cross your left foot in front to land on the second. Push into your left foot to pick your right foot up; cross it in front of the left and have it land on the third step. Continue this motion for one to two flights. Repeat with the left side facing the stairs.
- Maintain proper posture when climbing stairs; press your shoulders down and away from your ears, stack your shoulders over your hips and pull your lower abdominal muscles in toward your back. Keep your knees in line with your second toe during all exercises and prevent your knees from moving in front of your toes.
- Change your surroundings to prevent workout boredom. Use a combination of indoor and outdoor stairs, such as bleachers, apartment or office building staircases, parks and public sites.
- Check with your physician before starting any new exercise program.
Beth Rifkin has been writing health- and fitness-related articles since 2005. Her bylines include "Tennis Life," "Ms. Fitness," "Triathlon Magazine," "Inside Tennis" and others. She holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from Temple University.