Is Running Up Stairs the Best Exercise?

young sports woman running up on stone stairs

Running up stairs is a heart-pumping, calorie-torching workout, but the best exercise for one person isn’t the best for another person. Your best exercise depends on a number of factors, including your fitness goals and current fitness level. If you’re looking to increase the intensity of your workouts, running stairs is an excellent way to challenge your major muscle groups.

Calories Burned

If you want to maximize calorie burn in a short period of time, running up stairs is one of the best and most efficient exercises. According to, a 140-pound person will burn 889 calories per hour running up stairs. In comparison, one hour of rowing at a vigorous effort burns 476 calories, and one hour of cycling at a vigorous effort burns 603 calories.

Your Body on Running Up Stairs

According to the American Council on Exercise, running stairs is an effective high-intensity workout that builds speed, power, agility and cardiovascular fitness. One study published in the "British Journal of Sports Medicine" found that sedentary women who incorporated stair climbing into their daily activities increased their VO2 max, or maximum aerobic capacity, by 17.1 percent and reduced "bad" LDL cholesterol by 7.7 percent. Running stairs is efficient because it targets many major muscle groups. It requires hip extension and abduction, knee extension, spine flexion and ankle flexion, meaning that your butt, quadriceps, calves, core and surrounding muscles get an excellent workout, says

The Workout

You can complete a stair-running workout in a stadium, a park or in your own apartment complex. Choose a number of stairs or destination you want to run. Run up and back, resting for three times the amount of time it took you to get up the stairs, says the American Council on Exercise. Repeat this cycle for the duration of your workout. This can range from 30 minutes to an hour, depending on your fitness level. As you improve, you can challenge yourself by climbing more flights of stairs or increasing the duration of your workout.

The Best Exercise

Running up stairs is a great way to spice up your fitness routine, but the best exercise varies from person to person. It’s important to find something you enjoy, so you will stay motivated to stick with it. Experiment with a variety of workouts to keep your body physically challenged, says the American Council on Exercise. If you find you enjoy running stairs, add it to your workout routine to increase intensity and challenge your muscles.