Taking the stairs is a great way to add a little exercise to your daily routine. Even as few as two or three flights per day can help you burn extra calories. While most healthy adults can manage a few floors without getting tired, others may experience fatigue or lightheadedness, depending on their fitness level. If you’ve recently neglected your exercise routine, you may find it a little harder to take the stairs.
How it Works
Like jogging, stair climbing is an aerobic exercise that burns calories by elevating your heart rate. When you exercise regularly, your cardiovascular and respiratory systems strengthen and develop endurance, allowing you to perform more difficult activities for longer periods of time. Taking the stairs increases the rate of oxygen uptake required by your body, causing your heart and lungs to work harder in order to transport sufficient oxygen to your muscles. When you stop exercising regularly, your cardiorespiratory endurance gradually drops and forces your organs to work overtime in order to accommodate your hardworking muscles. This explains why you may feel tired or winded after climbing flights of stairs.
The Bigger Picture
Taking the stairs can also tire out your leg muscles if you’ve been neglecting your lower-body exercises. The vertical component of stair climbing adds to the amount of resistance you put on your quads, calves and other leg muscles in order to lift your body weight. This can be even more taxing if you happen to be carrying a few extra pounds around the waist. Fortunately, taking the stairs is such good exercise that your leg muscles can strengthen over time and reduce the amount of tiredness you feel after climbing stairs.
Exercise and Stair Climbing
The best way to beat stair-climbing fatigue is to adopt a regular aerobic routine. If taking the stairs elevates your heart rate to the point that you feel it’s going to explode, it might be best to start with a daily 30- to 60-minute walking routine. This can also help you shed a few pounds by increasing the number of calories you burn each day. Even a casual 2-mile-per-hour walk around the neighborhood can burn between 204 and 305 calories each hour, according to MayoClinic.com. As your cardiorespiratory endurance strengthens, you can replace your daily walk with more rigorous aerobic activities such as jogging or swimming. The easier it becomes to engage in aerobic exercise, the less tired you will feel taking the stairs.
While lack of exercise is a big contributor to feeling tired after climbing stairs, there are a number of health conditions that could also contribute to your symptoms. For example, diseases like high blood pressure can cause you to feel dizziness, fatigue or loss of balance, according to the American Heart Association. Talk to your doctor if you experience frequent fatigue symptoms after mild activities such as stair climbing. Also be sure to get your doctor’s approval before adopting any exercise routine.
- MayoClinic.com: Aerobic Exercise
- British Journal of Sports Medicine: Training Effects of Short Bouts of Stair Climbing on Cardiorespiratory Fitness, Blood Lipids, and Homocysteine in Sedentary Young Women
- Elon University: Cardiorespiratory Endurance
- The New York Times: Great Workout, Forget the View
- MayoClinic.com: Exercise for Weight Loss: Calories Burned in 1 Hour
- American Heart Association: What are the Symptoms of High Blood Pressure?
Based in the Appalachian Mountains, Brian Connolly is a certified nutritionist and has been writing professionally since 2000. He is a licensed yoga and martial arts instructor whose work regularly appears in “Metabolism,” “Verve” and publications throughout the East Coast. Connolly holds advanced degrees from the University of North Carolina, Asheville and the University of Virginia.