Stairs Vs. Walking for Cardio

Moderate-speed walking elevates your heart rate.
i Jupiterimages/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images

Walking or stairs -- each reoxygenates your blood and burns calories; yet they are vastly different. Stair climbing offers even office workers a convenient lunchtime workout, but can be hard on the joints. You can still work your cardiovascular system while walking without jarring your knees.. Before starting an exercise program, check with your doctor.


Aerobic walking burns 150 calories. That is if you stick with it for 30 minutes, according to licensed dietitian, Katherine Zeratsky. Yet first, you must reach an aerobic walking speed. You should be able to talk to your walking partner, but not be breathless. Time yourself and aim for a 13 to 15 minute mile, notes personal trainers June E. Kahn and Lawrence J. M. Biscontini. As you get comfortable at this pace, ease into speed walking and go for a 12 minute mile.


There is a good reason your co-worker hits the stairs on her lunch break. The same 150 calories you burn in 30 minutes of brisk walking, you can burn in 15 minutes of stair climbing. Taking the stairs -- at work, home or anywhere, has positive effects on your blood pressure and fitness level. It can even lower your blood cholesterol and slim your physique. If a workday workout is not your thing, stadium bleachers, building steps and your home staircase provide the same heart-healthy cardio. Or check with your local gym for access to stair stepper machines.

Duration and Frequency

One 30 minute walk or a 15 minute stair climb is not enough for long-term cardio health, but it is a start. Whichever you choose -- stairs or walking, remember that frequency and duration are key. As an adult, fit in at least 150 minutes of low-intensity, low-impact aerobic activity a week. Grab a friend and take a brisk 30 minute walk after dinner, or on your lunch break, and in five days, you've met your aerobic goal. If you prefer an intense routine, hit the stairs, and keep your speed and heart rate elevated. Be careful; stair climbing can be hard on the knees, so take it easy. If you work up enough sweat, you can slash your weekly workout time in half. Reach 75 minutes of intense exercise by stair climbing for 15 minutes, five times a week.


How vigorously your lungs work, how efficiently you cardiovascular system pumps blood throughout your body and how many calories you burn per minute determines how intensely you’re exercising. Depending on your pace, walking can be both a low and moderate-intensity workout. You’ll only burn between 3.5 and seven calories a minute, though; that’s why you need 30 minutes to burn 150 calories. Stair climbing can be both a moderate activity and intense workout. Keep at an aerobic pace for 15 minutes and you’ll get a decent cardio workout. You'll also burn more than seven calories a minute and can reduce your workout time.

the nest