PhotoConsumers spend lots of money on energy drinks and coffee to get an extra energy boost. But it turns out it's an unnecessary expense.

At least that's what researchers at the University of Georgia say.

Their study, published in the journal Physiology and Behavior, found instead of loading up on caffeine, all you need to do is walk up and down stairs for 10 minutes. That's it.

Doing so, they claim, provides the same energy boost as 50 milligrams of caffeine, which is about the equivalent to what's in a can of soda.

Co-author Patrick O'Connor, a professor in the department of kinesiology, said participants in the study, whether they got caffeine or a placebo, didn't feel any difference. In other words, the got no caffeine kick.

A temporary effect

"But with exercise they did feel more energetic and vigorous," he said. "It was a temporary feeling, felt immediately after the exercise, but with the 50 milligrams of caffeine, we didn't get as big an effect."

The aim of the study was to help people who work long days in an office, where workers spend long hours sitting. It's no coincidence that most offices have a coffee room, where many employees seek an afternoon energy boost.

But the Georgia researchers say just walking up and down stairs at a low-intensity pace actually delivers more energy while providing obvious health benefits.

Easy access

"Office workers can go outside and walk, but weather can be less than ideal. It has never rained on me while walking the stairs," said O'Connor. "And a lot of people working in office buildings have access to stairs, so it's an option to keep some fitness while taking a short break from work."

The people in the study were female college students who said they were usually tired because they got so little sleep at night -- usually six and a half hours or less.

To test whether caffeine or exercise contributed more energy, each group were tested for how well they performed certain cognitive tasks. Neither the caffeine nor the stairs helped much when it came to staying focused. However, those walking the stairs had a small increase in motivation for work.

One cautionary note: Before you try this, make sure you can get back into your office from the stairwell. You may have to go all the way to ground level and exit the building. That's not necessarily bad but it can be a shock if you're not prepared for it.


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