You might look at a stair climber as a stairway to nowhere. Climbing stairs, whether in a 10-story building or on a stair climber in the gym, isn't the most enjoyable exercise. On the other hand, a stair climber is a terrific machine for a cardio workout and a great way to burn calories and lose weight. It's also an effective way to firm up your quad and glute muscles. Come to think of it, a stair climber just might be a stairway to health heaven. Bring headphones and your own Led Zeppelin music.
Even a Little Goes a Long Way
A 2000 research study in Great Britain found that sedentary college-aged women who climbed stairs, for short periods of time on a daily basis, significantly improved their heart health. The women climbed 199 steps in about two minutes and 15 seconds, starting out with one climb per day during the first week of the study and ending with six climbs per day in the seventh and final week of the study. The stair-climbers improved their "good" HDL cholesterol level, increased their endurance capacity and reduced their amount of fatigue, even though the total amount of exercise during a single day was less than 15 minutes.
Try Interval Training
Stair climbing is made-to-order for interval training, which can get you fitter in a shorter period of time. As the American Council on Exercise explains, interval training consists of short, high-intensity bursts of exercise followed by periods of rest and recovery at an easy pace. Everyone from fitness beginners to elite athletes can use interval training. A beginner might start with one minute of intense stair climbing followed by five minutes of rest/recovery. An elite athlete might reverse the ratio. If you are just starting an exercise program, check with your doctor to see if stair climbing and interval training are appropriate for you.
Use it to Cross-Train
Stair climbers can be a good choice for cross-training purposes. One of the main purposes of cross-training is to use other muscle groups while continuing to work on your aerobic fitness, states "Runner's World." Another is to relieve boredom by mixing different activities into your exercise routine. So a swimmer, for example, could cross-train on a stair climber and exercise different muscles, while enjoying a change in scenery from the pool to the gym.
Use a Stair Climber Correctly
Stair climbers are pretty much self-explanatory. You step up with one foot and then the other. What's to learn? Actually, proper technique is necessary to get the most out of your stair-climber workout. As the American Council on Exercise explains, you don't want to lean too heavily on the sidebars. Instead, you want to maintain an upright posture with your hips centered over your legs. Be sure not to lean forward -- it puts too much stress on your back and wrists.
- Preventive Medicine: Training Effects of Accumulated Daily Stair-Climbing Exercise in Previously Sedentary Young Women
- American Council on Exercise: What's the Best Piece of Cardio Equipment to Use?
- Runner's World: Is Stair Climbing Good Cross-Training?
- American Council on Sports Medicine: Selecting and Effectively Using an Elliptical Trainer of Stair Climber
Jim Thomas has been a freelance writer since 1978. He wrote a book about professional golfers and has written magazine articles about sports, politics, legal issues, travel and business for national and Northwest publications. He received a Juris Doctor from Duke Law School and a Bachelor of Science in political science from Whitman College.