Men's Articles

Want To Get Fit! Step Right Up


Stay healthy, even lose weight - and all by climbing stairs, as we find out. The exercise benefits of stair climbing are well known. Competitive athletes run up stadium steps to improve muscular and cardiovascular endurance, and "stepper" machines are standard equipment at most fitness centres. But stair climbing is not only for exercise-junkies and the super-fit. It is a healthy activity that almost everyone can incorporate into their daily lives.

Experts say we can enjoy significant health and fitness benefits by taking just 30 minutes moderate exercise each day. This "moderate exercise" need not involve joining a gym or adopting a time-consuming fitness programme. Everyday activities such as walking and house-cleaning will do just fine. Dr Harvey Simon, associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and author of The No Sweat Exercise Plan, says: "Everything that gets you moving - from gardening to sex - can and will contribute to your health."

It turns out that stair climbing is one of the best and most practical ways to become more active. You can make a big difference to your health and appearance simply by taking the stairs rather than the lift or escalator while going about your daily business. Last year, the Scottish National Health Service ran a campaign to persuade people to use the stairs at work. The campaign was based on research which showed that just seven minutes of stair climbing each day cuts the chances of dying from coronary heart disease by more than 60 per cent, and halves the risk of a heart attack.

Furthermore, seven minutes of stair climbing each day burns the energy equivalent of 3kg of fat during the course of a year. So it is a great way to prevent or even reverse weight gain. Climbing stairs is a simple and convenient way to get fit and stay trim. It requires no equipment, no expensive gym membership, and makes no demands on your time. Despite this, very few people make the minimal effort required. Those who chose the easy way up lost the opportunity to gain valuable health benefits without any disruption to their daily routine. Eight good reasons to take the stairs:

  • It is often quicker than waiting for the lift or queuing for the escalator.
  • Every minute spent climbing stairs burns eight to 10 calories, helping you to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight.
  • Stair climbing helps prevent health problems associated with inactivity such as obesity, high blood pressure and heart disease.
  • Stair climbing strengthens your leg muscles and joints, and tones your thighs and buttocks.
  • Stair climbing is a weight-bearing exercise, which contributes to bone health and helps fight osteoporosis.
  • Stair climbing makes you fitter.
  • Stair climbing improves balance.
  • Stair climbing can prolong your life. One study found that men who climb at least eight flights a day have a 33 per cent lower mortality rate than those who are sedentary.

If all of this has motivated you to take the stairs, then it is wise to begin slowly. Start by climbing just one or two flights of steps, and then take the lift or escalator to higher floors. As your legs, heart and lungs get stronger you can progress to five or 10 floors. The benefits to your health and appearance will not be immediately obvious. But do not be discouraged.

Persevere, and over time you will notice significant improvements. Racing up long flights of stairs is only for the physically fit. But moderate stair climbing may inspire you to begin a more vigorous exercise programme. If you suffer from knee problems, arthritis or a heart or lung condition, you should seek medical advice before taking the stairs.

 

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