If you long for shapelier legs and buttocks, both lunges and stair steppers will do your body good -- and there's no need to choose just one. Lunges provide resistance training, targeting muscle development. The stair stepper offers a killer cardiovascular workout plus toning benefits. You need both types of activity in your workout schedule -- at least 150 minutes weekly of aerobic exercise, and two days per week of resistance moves.
If you can walk, you can probably lunge. This exercise involves stepping out onto one foot, bending your knees to lower your whole body, then returning to a standing position. Lunges mainly target quadriceps on the front of your thighs, but also involve the gluteus maximus, or buttocks, as well as adductor muscles of your inner thighs and soleus calf muscles. You also use hamstrings in the back of your thighs along with gastrocnemius calf muscles for dynamic stabilization. Waist, back and other buttock and calf muscles also work to stabilize your body as you lunge.
The list of muscles used for steppers is just as impressive as with lunges: You use quads, hamstrings, gluteus maximus and adductors, as well as muscles in the waist, back and calves. Plus, you get the perks that come with aerobic exercise if you use your stepper for more than 10 minutes a pop. That said, you probably won't get as much resistance on the stepper as with lunges, and hence may not develop as much muscle. That's why it's feasible to use the stepper for long durations, whereas 10 minutes of lunges would wear out most ordinary mortals.
What's the big deal with aerobic exercise? For one thing, it improves heart and lung strength so that, eventually, your heart doesn't have to beat as fast to pump blood. That leads to lower blood pressure and reduces your risk of cardiovascular disease. Aerobic activity also lowers levels of "bad" LDL cholesterol in your blood while raising "good" HDL cholesterol levels. The exercise also burns mega calories to fight unwanted weight and even helps keep your brain sharp, according to MayoClinic.com.
Resistance Exercise Benefits
Resistance training is also no slouch when it comes to protecting your health. The activity develops lean muscle mass to raise your resting metabolic rate -- a big help in weight maintenance. It even builds stronger bones to fight osteoporosis in the future. Resistance moves also go a long way in building balance and coordination, making you less susceptible to dangerous spills. And if you have back pain, strength training may offer some relief.
Nina K. is a Los Angeles-based journalist who has been published by USAToday.com, Fitday.com, Healthy Living Magazine, Organic Authority and numerous other print and web publications. She has a philosophy degree from the University of Colorado and a journalism certificate from UCLA.