The Purpose of Running Stairs for Exercise
Running stairs is a cardiovascular training exercise most commonly used by athletes and people who want to lose weight. This high-intensity workout is a successful form of exercise because it quickly elevates your heart rate, involves your entire body, burns a lot calories and improves your body composition. Incorporating this exercise into your fitness program can help add variety and new challenges for your muscles.
Running stairs is a form of cardiovascular exercise that also conditions your muscles. As you run up and down the stairs, you will be burning many calories and toning the muscles of your lower body. According to NutriStrategy, a 150 lb. person can burn over 1,000 calories in an hour of stair running. If you are trying to lose weight, this type of workout will melt calories and unwanted body fat. As you gain strength and increase the length of your sessions, your muscular endurance will also increase, which allows you to push yourself farther and harder during each workout.
Your technique will help protect your muscles and joints as you run stairs as well as help you get the most beneficial workout. Step on every other step as you run to allow your legs to make a longer, more comfortable stride. Land and push off with the front half of your foot instead of your heel for more power and control. Get the whole body involved as you run; keep your shoulders relaxed, swing your arms and press off each step with your thighs. Keep your knees behind your toes when you run down the stairs to avoid absorbing the shock in your knees.
Start out slowly and gradually increase the intensity of each stair running routine. If you are new to this type of exercise, start with as little as five to 10 minutes. Add two to three minutes when the workouts begin to feel easy to complete. Continue increasing the duration until you can run stairs for 20 to 30 minutes per session. Take small, 30-second, breaks every three to five minutes of your workout. Start at a pace that is challenging yet comfortable enough that you can maintain it for the entire workout.
Running stairs puts a lot of physical stress on your lower body muscles and joints. If you have previous knee, ankle or hip injuries or experience discomfort when you walk up and down stairs this exercise may not be acceptable for you. Discuss running stairs with your doctor to find out if it will be beneficial or detrimental to your physical health.
- Relativestrengthadvantage.com: Running Stairs
- NutriStrategy: Calories Burned During Activities, Sports and Exercises Chart
- Waist, Hips and Thighs: Running Stairs
- Egaña M, Donne B. Physiological Changes Following a 12 Week Gym Based Stair-Climbing, Elliptical Trainer and Treadmill Running Program in Females. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2004;44(2):141-146.
- Boreham CA, Kennedy RA, Murphy MH, Tully M, Wallace WF, Young I. Training effects of short bouts of stair climbing on cardiorespiratory fitness, blood lipids, and homocysteine in sedentary young women. Br J Sports Med. 2005;39(9):590-593. doi:10.1136/bjsm.2002.001131
- Honda H, Igaki M, Hatanaka Y, et al. Stair climbing/descending exercise for a short time decreases blood glucose levels after a meal in participants with type 2 diabetes. BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care. 2016;4(1):e000232. doi:10.1136/bmjdrc-2016-000232
- Abstracts from the 2004 Scientific Sessions of the American Heart Association. November 7-10, 2004, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA. Circulation. 2004;110(17 Suppl):III1-835.
Ashley Farley has been a certified personal trainer since 2008. She is also a writer specializing in healthy living, fitness and nutrition topics. Farley has an Associate of Science in mental health services from the Community College of the Air Force and is pursuing her B.A. in English at Wright State University.