I was fortunate to be on holiday a few weeks ago where I was staying on the 5th floor- there were two lifts in the building but one was under repair so….unless one wanted to wait 10 minutes (ADD – impossible) or squeeze into a lift with 6 other strangers (claustrophobic - no!), there was little alternative but to use the stairs – sometimes 5 times a day!
So I was grateful to stumble across some new research which showed that climbing 50 stair steps daily may reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases such as stroke, blood clots, and heart attacks by as much as 20%!
The study saw these benefits with five flights of stairs a day, comparing them to people who did not climb any stairs daily. Walking up steps may provide an enhanced form of aerobic exercise in which the body battles gravity to move upward, thus using more muscles and expending more energy.
The authors of the study analysed data from 458,860 adult participants in the UKBiobank. They collected information regarding the individuals’ stair-climbing, lifestyle, and socio-demographic factors as baseline data and then again five years later. They followed the participants for 12.5 years.
The researchers assumed an average staircase to be 10 steps.
Although the greatest protective effect of stair-climbing was associated with people who were not considered at particular CVD (cardio-vascular disease) risk due to genetics, climbing stairs also offset other participants’ pre-existing CVD risk.
According to Dr. Lu Qi, director of Tulane University’s Obesity Research Center : “Climbing stairs is a kind of vigorous exercise which has shown benefits on lowering various risk factors for heart disease. Climbing stairs may help in lowering body weight, improving metabolic status and inflammation, and reducing other diseases which may increase the risk of heart disease, such as diabetes.”
Compared to say, brisk walking, Dr. Cheng-Han Chen, medical director of the Structural Heart Program at Saddleback Medical Center in Laguna Hills, California, who was not involved in the study said, “It’s basically [a]n enhanced form of aerobic exercise because not only do you get the motion — the movement that you get from the walk — you actually engage other muscle groups”.
“Because [climbing stairs is] harder, you’re doing more exercise, and more exercise is better for you. We think that [climbing] stairs actually gives you three times as much exercise as the same amount of time walking on the ground.”
This research is corroborated by the NETFLIX series "How to Live to 100", where in Sardinia, Italy it was found that people whc climbed hills in their town regularly, had much longer life spans.
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