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Short intervals of climbing stairs found to boost health

Researchers believe these findings can help those who have trouble fitting exercise into their daily routines

Photo (c) astrosystem - Fotolia
For many consumers, busy schedules make it hard to squeeze everything into one day, and something usually ends up on the back burner.

Now, a new study conducted by researchers from McMaster University makes it that much easier for consumers to fit exercise into their day-to-day routines. The researchers found that climbing stairs in short intervals can work to improve cardiovascular health.

“The findings make it even easier for people to incorporate ‘exercise snacks’ into their day,” said researcher Martin Gibala. “Those who work in office towers or live in apartment buildings can vigorously climb a few flights of stairs in the morning, at lunch, and in the evening and know they are getting an effective workout.”

A 10-minute commitment

The researchers based their study on previous research that involved sprint interval training (SIT) -- the idea that intense exercise in small increments can have beneficial health effects.

The researchers tested if the same positive health benefits would occur by climbing stairs; they had participants who weren’t regular exercisers test their hypothesis. The participants exercised three times per week for six weeks, climbing three flights of stairs -- 60 steps -- three times per day. Each exercise session was separated by one to four hours of rest.

When compared with a control group who didn’t exercise, the researchers found that the exercise group not only showed better cardiovascular health, but they were also stronger than their non-exercising counterparts by the end of the test period.

“We know that sprint interval training works, but we were a bit surprised to see that stair snacking approach was also effective,” said researcher Jonathan Little. “Vigorously climbing a few flights of stairs on your coffee or bathroom break during the day seems to be enough to boost fitness in people who are otherwise sedentary.”

Keeping it short

Many consumers let exercising go by the wayside, as it can be seen as too large of a time commitment. However, based on this study and other recent studies, consumers can feel the effects of exercise without spending hours in the gym.

Researchers from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center found that one single workout can affect consumers’ metabolisms for up to two days.

“It doesn’t take much exercise to alter the activity of...neurons,” said Dr. Kevin Williams. “Based on our results, we would predict that getting out and exercising even once in a semi-intense manner can reap benefits that can last for days, in particular with respect to glucose metabolism.”

Similarly, researchers found that one minute of running per day can help bone health in pre-menopausal and post-menopausal women.

“We don’t know yet whether it’s better to accumulate this small amount of exercise in bits throughout each day or all at once, and also whether a slightly longer bout of exercise on one or two days per week is just as good as 1-2 minutes a day,” said Dr. Victoria Stiles. “But there’s a clear link between this kind of high-intensity, weight-bearing exercise and better bone health in women.”

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