It is estimated that we can use as many calories in 15 minutes climbing stairs as we would in a 30-minute jog. (Cyrus McCrimmon, Denver Post file)
Stair-climbing is convenient, free, requires no special equipment and is an effective way to expend the daily recommendation of 150 calories per day in physical activity. Health professionals, including the U.S. surgeon general, have been recommending stairs over elevators and escalators for decades.It is estimated that we can use as many calories in 15 minutes climbing stairs as we would in a 30-minute jog.
The physical benefits of stair-climbing are legion: weight loss, improved blood circulation, bone density, and cholesterol, stronger aerobic and anaerobic endurance, and better agility to name a few. It can be performed anywhere there are stairs, so groups as diverse as athletes, business travelers and office workers often employ this exercise to get — and stay — in shape.
Denver firefighter and Fight for Air climb participant Ricky McDonald takes the stairs for health and job security. “We are always trying to keep fit. Climbing stairs while wearing our fire gear, an air tank, carrying hose and an ax is one of the hardest things we will have to do at a fire. If we are not in shape, we can easily become part of the problem rather than part of the solution,” McDonald says.
For McDonald and other firefighters, stair-climbing is the perfect workout. “We can get in a quality aerobic/anaerobic/strength workout in a relatively short amount of time. There is no special exercise equipment required and climbing stairs is a lower- impact activity than running, so the impact injuries we’d get from pounding the pavement are kept to a minimum.”
Maintain good posture (no rounded shoulders) and push through the heel and midfoot, rather than the ball of the foot, to better utilize the muscles of the thighs and butt.
Walking and running up stairs is generally considered to be a good exercise for knees but if you have concerns about yours, discuss them with your physician before taking on this form of exercise. Because coming down steps means your knees will be used as brakes against gravity, it is recommended that you take an elevator after your climb. If an elevator is not available, proceed slowly and carefully to avoid overloading the knees.
By Linda J. Buch