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Stair Climbing for Improved Health & Performance

Updated: Jan 31, 2020

Over recent years stair climbs have become increasingly popular in the UK, not least due to the interest from charities as a fundraising alternative to standard running events, but also down to open challenge events such as The Broadgate Tower Run Up providing a platform for all participants to try the sport.

Another major reason there is a growing love of stair training and competition across the UK is due to the huge range of health and performance benefits associated with the activity. There has been extensive research undertaken demonstrating the effectiveness of time spent on stairs in improving our physical and mental health.

Stair Climbing burns more calories than jogging.

StepJockey have conducted some of the most extensive research into the benefits of stair climbing in the UK. This research has concluded that stair climbing in fact burns more calories per minute than jogging, helping to control weight with just a few minutes per day helping to stave off middle age spread.

Harvard Medical School studies have shown that people who walk up stairs, even at a slower pace, burn calories three times faster than when walking at a faster speed horizontally. Milan University researchers go further and have shown that up to 80% of energy in exercise is directed towards transporting mass upwards, meaning that calories could be burnt on the stairs at up to 10 times the rate than on level ground.

Stair Climbing is kind to your joints and muscles

We all know that running is pretty high impact but what you may not realise, is just how low impact stair climbing is. It is the perfect opportunity to work all the important lower-body muscles without loading them with too much force and impact. The vertical motion of stair climbing and action of briefly standing on one leg at a time, forces you to stabilise your lower-body muscles such as the glutes that would usually be neglected during running. It is the strengthening and stabilising of these muscles that will help to reduce your chances of injury when you do go out for a run, or serve to help your rehabilitation following injury!

Stair Climbing is great interval training

Interval running sessions can be absolutely brutal, if you have done one and pushed yourself, you will know. Now imagine doing that session up a set of stairs – super intense! It is this intensity that pushes your body to the limit and why stair workouts are proven to improve your V02 max (the amount of oxygen your body can take in and deliver to your muscles during exercise). So clearly, improving your VO2 max will help you run faster and longer, now who doesn't want that?

Stair climbing improves bone density

Studies from the Dubai Excellency Centre demonstrate that not only are we seeing calorie burn, but also the exercise serves to build muscle tone as one might expect, perfect for runners, but in addition improves bone density and protects against related conditions such as osteoporosis, benefits that can also be achieved, albeit to a lesser degree, whilst descending stairs. Canada’s Concordia University tell us the very mechanics of stair activity requires your brain to be more alert in order to keep your body balanced and coordinated. This, in turn, improves your motor skills and sharpens your cognitive abilities, as well as making you more observant and receptive to visual information.

Stair Climbing improves energy levels

Doctors in the US additionally recommend stair climbing as an ideal way to improve your energy levels, increase the function of your immune system and lower your risk of diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. Georgia University research suggests that 10 minutes of stair-climbing in the middle of the day boosts energy levels more effectively than a 50mg dose of caffeine. A mid morning stair climb rather than an Americano? Coffee lovers may take some convincing there!

Stair Climbing improves brain function

These benefits may seem like the more obvious advantages, but less obvious are the mental health benefits as suggested by Concordia who also studied the brain volumes of people who climbed more stairs daily and found them to have more grey matter, helping to keep the brain ‘younger’.  The National Center for Biotechnology Information in the US agree that vigorous exercise of this nature produces improved brain function.

Endorphin Rush

It is well understood that the associated release of endorphins, above and beyond less vigorous sports, gives that feel good factor, relieving tension, and perhaps is responsible for the mild addiction stair climbers experience on the completion of climbs and events.

A sense of community

Total Motion Towerrunners (TMT) is the original stair climb community which sprang up on as more and more people discovered the sport. TMT is a really friendly group who meet weekly for stair training sessions at Broadgate Tower, so if you’re curious come along to one of our friendly and inclusive sessions and find out what it’s all about. (See links below)

So, if you’re looking for a new way to improve your all-round health, then you needn’t look any further than the stairs. If you live in London you are blessed with access to stairwells – think about all those stairs on the tube, escalators and static staircases (as well as at TMT training sessions of course). Take the stairs at work too, it’ll likely be quicker than waiting for the lift, all the time making small improvements to your health without making any major sacrifices.

There is further good news for those in the UK looking for their opportunity to hit the stairs as there are now more stair climbs than ever, allowing you to support a variety of great causes, or alternatively challenge yourself at the next Broadgate Tower Run Up. Give it a try; you never know it may prove to be a great addition to your sporting calendar. It will certainly benefit your health, and dare we say you may actually enjoy the challenge!

See you on the stairs soon!

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