PhotoSorry, there are now no excuses for being out of shape. If you've got access to a flight of stairs, you've got a workout.

Researchers at McMaster University say short, intense bursts of stair climbing, whether at home or at the office, have major positive benefits for your heart. You don't have to go to a gym or have an expensive piece of equipment in your home.

“Stair climbing is a form of exercise anyone can do in their own home, after work or during the lunch hour,” said Martin Gibala, a professor of kinesiology at McMaster and lead author of the study. “This research takes interval training out of the lab and makes it accessible to everyone.”

Recent research has found that short, intense intervals of vigorous exercise during a moderate workout can be highly effective. Studies have also shown that vigorous stair climbing for long periods of time, up to 70 minutes a week, is also helpful.

But what about short bursts of strenuous exercise, what's known as sprint internal training (SIT)? Does that do any good? Scientists at McMaster decided to find out.

The study

They recruited 31 sedentary but otherwise healthy women and tested the effect of two different approaches. Both required 10 minutes of their time per day over an extended period.

Half the women spent the 10 minutes on an exercise bike, which had already been proven to improve fitness. The second group engaged in vigorous stair-climbing, but only for 20 seconds at a time.

Then, the participants quickly climbed up and down one flight of stairs for 60 seconds, something researchers say could easily be done at home. Climbing the stairs, researchers found, was equally beneficial as riding the bike.

Convenient exercise

“Interval training offers a convenient way to fit exercise into your life, rather than having to structure your life around exercise,” Gibala said.

Fitness enthusiasts have long known the benefits of stair-climbing. Athletic coaches routinely make their players run up and down stadium and arena steps as part of their physical training.

What's new is the fact that it doesn't take that many steps to provide a benefit, if you're doing it vigorously.

There is even a website devoted to athletic stair-climbing, StepJockey.com, which says just two minutes of extra stair-climbing a day is enough to stop middle-age weight gain.

Before starting any vigorous exercise routine, make sure you discuss it with your doctor.


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