Living in a house with stairs is something many of us take for granted. Going up and down stairs is part of our daily routine and we don’t think much of it. But could simply using the stairs in your home actually make you fitter and healthier? There has been some research into the potential benefits of taking the stairs rather than an elevator or escalator, but does this apply to the stairs in your own house? Let’s take a look at the evidence.
One of the most obvious potential advantages of having stairs at home is that it provides opportunities to burn extra calories. Walking up stairs requires more energy expenditure than walking on a flat surface. One study found that while walking on a level surface burned 3.5 calories for every 3 minutes for a 143 pound person, walking up stairs burned 9.6 calories in the same time period. Over the course of a year, the extra calorie burn from using stairs instead of avoiding them can really add up.
Exactly how many extra calories you’ll burn depends on factors like your weight, the number of stairs, and how fast you climb them. But any additional calorie expenditure helps. Burning just 200 extra calories per day (which you could achieve by incorporating more stair use at home) could help you lose over 20 pounds in a year.
Going up and down the stairs also works out your leg and glute muscles. Climbing stairs engages your glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves. Just incorporating more stair climbing and descending into your daily routine by taking the stairs instead of the elevator at home can help tone and strengthen your legs over time.
One study had women aged 50-75 climb up and down a short steep set of stairs 3 times per day, 5 days a week for 12 weeks. At the end of the study, the women showed significant improvements in leg strength and reduced body fat. Using the stairs in your home may provide similar benefits. The more trips up and down you can incorporate into your day, the greater the potential strengthening effects.
Improved Cardiovascular Health
In addition to leg toning, regularly using the stairs also helps improve your cardiovascular fitness. Going up stairs raises your heart rate more than walking at a casual pace on a flat surface. One study found that walking up a standard flight of stairs caused heart rates to increase by 17.7 beats per minute on average compared to resting.
Over time, incorporating more stair climbing into your daily activities trains your cardiovascular system. It can lead to greater stamina, boosted circulation, lower blood pressure and better heart health. Using your home stairs can serve as a simple form of cardio exercise without any equipment required.
One of the great things about having stairs in your home is that opportunities for exercise are built right into your living space. You don’t have to go to a gym or dedicate specific time to working out. Just opting to take the stairs rather than avoiding them whenever possible means you easily incorporate extra calorie burning, muscle toning and cardio benefits into your normal daily routine.
Even if you only have one flight of stairs in your home, going up and down it several times per day ends up providing a pretty substantial workout over time. The convenience and accessibility of home stairs makes it easy to integrate more physical activity into even the busiest schedule. You don’t have to make excuses about lacking time for exercise if the stairs are right there waiting to be used whenever you need to go between floors.
Improved Sleep Quality
Interestingly, incorporating more stair climbing into your daily life may also lead to better sleep quality. One study looked at women living in public housing apartments with either low or high stair use based on the floor they lived on. The researchers found that the women who lived in units that required greater stair climbing to enter and exit the building had significantly better self-reported sleep quality.
It’s believed that the greater energy expenditure from increased stair use helps regulate circadian rhythms and leads to more sound sleep. So just making a habit of taking the stairs in your home whenever possible might just translate to higher quality rest as well.
Due to the various benefits of increased calorie burn, cardio exertion, and muscle toning, regularly using stairs can promote weight loss over time. Studies have shown that consistent stair climbing is an effective intervention for helping overweight or obese subjects lose weight.
One meta-analysis looking at multiple previous studies on stair climbing and weight loss found that subjects who incorporated stair use into their daily lives were able to lose between 1 and 5 pounds over the duration of the various studies, even without any other lifestyle modifications. The more significant the increase in stair use, the greater the weight change.
Simply opting to take your home stairs instead of the elevator whenever you have a choice provides many built-in opportunities for extra calorie expenditure and cardio. Make a commitment to using the stairs in your house as much as possible and you may just see your weight start to decrease.
Exercise is well known to stimulate the release of endorphins which enhance mood and relieve stress. Since stair climbing provides light exercise, it can give you an endorphin boost and mood elevation when performed regularly.
Adding more stair usage into your normal daily habits serves as a form of exercise that requires little conscious effort but can still make you feel good. The next time you’re feeling bored, tired or down, try taking a few quick trips up and down your home’s stairs and see if your mood doesn’t start to lift.
Increased Daily Activity Levels
Many people struggle to get enough exercise because they have sedentary jobs or lifestyles. Using the stairs in your home instead of avoiding them is one of the simplest ways to increase your overall daily activity levels with minimal effort or behavior change required.
Just climbing up and down your stairs through the day adds significantly more movement to routines that would otherwise involve prolonged sitting or low levels of exertion. Rather than viewing your home stairs as something to avoid, look at them as an opportunity to get extra activity in. Increased daily movement provides a wide range of health benefits.
Lower Mortality Risk
Given all the ways that incorporating more stair climbing into your days helps improve cardiovascular fitness, muscle strength, weight management and overall health, it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that it can also lower your mortality risk. But studies have in fact shown that greater stair usage correlates with reduced risk of all-cause mortality.
One extensive study conducted with over 30,000 subjects in Switzerland found that those who climbed stairs regularly had lower mortality rates over the 15 year study period. Another large cohort study done in Britain also demonstrated that both men and women who reported frequently climbing stairs had significantly reduced mortality compared to those who avoided stairs.
Simply making a habit of using the stairs in your home whenever possible instead of the elevator or other options provides a longevity boost. So taking those stairs could help you live longer!
Challenges of Home Stairs
While using your home stairs clearly offers many potential fitness and health benefits, it’s worth noting some potential downsides as well. Climbing lots of stairs can put added strain on your knees, especially if you are already susceptible to knee pain or osteoarthritis. The impact of going up and down stairs repeatedly through the day may irritate existing knee joint issues.
Home stairs can also pose a falling hazard for some individuals if adequate precautions aren’t taken. Factors like poor lighting, distractions, slippery surfaces, loose carpeting, and unclear edges between steps increase the chances of losing your footing. Paying close attention and having well marked, adequately lit stairs with stable surfaces and railings can help mitigate risks.
Additionally, the cardio benefits of stairs are limited by the relatively short durations of stair climbing most people incorporate into their home routines. Concentrated cardio exercise sessions provide greater sustained elevations in heart rate compared to brief 1 or 2 minute climbs. So while home stairs offer some cardiovascular activity, you likely still need dedicated workout sessions for optimal heart health.
Maximizing the Benefits of Home Stairs
To take full advantage of the stairs in your house, consider the following tips:
– Take the stairs every time you need to go between floors instead of looking for ways to avoid them
– Go up and down your stairs a few extra times whenever you find yourself standing around idly at home
– Always take the normal route up the stairs instead of relying on bannisters to pull yourself up
– Run up the stairs occasionally for an added challenge
– Bring items up and down the stairs throughout the day for added trips
– Do exercises like calf raises on the stairs for supplementary toning work
– Ensure stairs are well lit and have secure railings, stable surfaces and clearly marked edges
– Be especially cautious using stairs if you have known knee or balance issues
The stairs in your home can be viewed as either an inconvenience or an opportunity to improve your health. Simply making a habit of using them as much as possible provides built-in chances for extra calorie burning, cardiovascular training, leg toning and overall daily activity. Studies show that increased stair climbing correlates with numerous benefits like weight loss, better sleep, enhanced mood and even reduced mortality risk. While potential knee strain and falling hazards should be considered, taking basic precautions allows most people to safely integrate more stair use into their lives. So next time you need to go upstairs or downstairs at home, take the stairs and know you’re doing your health a favor with each step!