Why do the people of the Western world insist on waiting for elevators, hunting escalators, standing on those moving walkways at the airport and cutting people off in the parking lot to get the closest spot next to the gym? The late, great comedian Mitch Hedberg once said, “An escalator can never break, it can only become stairs. You would never see an ‘Escalator Temporarily Out of Order’ sign, just ‘Escalator Temporarily Stairs’ – sorry for the convenience…We apologize for that fact that you can still get up there.” (Yeah, why don’t they ever let you on a broken escalator?)
The only way to solve the aforementioned conundrum is to share great news about stair climbing. That is, that brief, intense bursts of stair climbing are a valid and practical form of boosting fitness. It is with great hope that the following results will encourage people that just a couple minutes of activity here and there have proven results for their health.
Think you have no time? No access to a gym?
The researchers at McMaster University say No excuse! to those illusory obstacles. They believe their research has proven that anyone can boost their fitness and heart health by using what you’ve got.
“Stair climbing is a form of exercise anyone can do in their own home, after work or during the lunch hour,” says Martin Gibala, a professor of kinesiology at McMaster and lead author on the study. “This research takes interval training out of the lab and makes it accessible to everyone.”
Although previous research pushed for sustained stair climbing – for at least 70 minutes a week – this small experiment with dozens of healthy but sedentary woman got results with just 30 minutes a week – that’s it! They call it sprint interval training (SIT) and did it only three times per week for six weeks. Each session was 10 minutes and included warm-up, brief bursts of vigorous exercise separated by short periods of recovery and cool-down.
The first protocol involved three, 20-second bouts of continuous climbing in an ‘all-out’ manner. The results were then compared and contrasted to participants who ran through the same protocol using an exercise bike.
For the second experiment, they vigorously climbed up and down one flight of stairs for periods of 60 seconds, an experiment which could be easily done at home.
This small and seemingly insignificant form of exercise improved the women’s cardiovascular health in a matter of weeks.
“Interval training offers a convenient way to fit exercise into your life, rather than having to structure your life around exercise,” says Gibala, who has studied high-intensity interval training for more than a decade and recently wrote a book on its efficacy entitled, The One Minute Workout.
This writer has read from people who do not recommend running down stairs. A father and son ruined their knees after a few years of doing this as their main form of exercise. I would run up stairs, but not down them. Personally, I prefer my home rebounder which is a lot easier on joints, but it’s great to know that effective fitness is the public space, too.
Read more in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise