Treadmill Incline in Comparison to the Stairs
Rocky Balboa ran up the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s stairs in the “Rocky” movies because running up stairs improved his fitness quickly. But Rocky actually needn't have run in bad weather as he prepared for his Jan. 1, 1976, fight with Apollo Creed, because the home treadmill machine was invented in the 1960s. Today’s treadmills have inclines that simulate hills. Running up stairs and treadmill inclines are excellent weight-loss and fitness exercises. Walking up stairs and treadmill inclines is less effective per minute, but makes longer workouts easier.
Running up stairs is one of the best weight-loss exercises, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services’ study of 175 activities. It burns 1,294 calories per hour in the average 190-pound person. Only running 5.5-minute miles, running six-minute miles and bicycling more than 20 mph burn more calories. Burning more calories, a measurement of energy, improves fitness more expeditiously, according to exercise expert Dr. Kenneth Cooper. Running up stairs requires muscles to work harder to maintain balance and raises heart rates. Hardworking muscles become stronger and improve physical fitness. Hardworking hearts adjust to strenuous exercise and improve cardiovascular fitness.
Runners burn more calories and improve their fitness more when they run faster and run up steeper inclines. Calorie-burning charts don’t measure running up stairs of various steepness, but the “Discovery Health” newsletter reports that running up stairs in general burns more calories than running 6 mph up a treadmill’s 5 percent incline, fewer calories than running 6 mph up a treadmill’s 15 percent incline and fewer calories than running 8 mph up a treadmill’s 5 percent incline. A 150-pound person exercising for 30 minutes burns 510 calories running up stairs, 415 calories running 6 mph up a treadmill’s 5 percent incline, 550 calories running 6 mph up a treadmill’s 15 percent incline and 541 calories running 8 mph up a treadmill’s 5 percent incline.
Stairs affect walkers more than runners. Running faster than 9 mph on level surfaces burns more calories than running up stairs, but walking up stairs burns more calories than walking at every speed, including racewalking, according to Wisconsin. Walking up stairs burns 690 calories per hour in the average 190-pound person. Treadmill inclines affect walkers less than stairs. Walking on a treadmill with a 1 percent incline burns the same number of calories as walking on flat outdoor surfaces, according to “The Complete Guide to Walking for Health, Weight Loss, and Fitness.”
Walking up stairs in general burns more calories than walking up a treadmill’s 5 percent incline at every speed, and fewer calories than walking 4 mph up a treadmill’s 15 percent incline, according to the “Discovery Health” newsletter. Walking up stairs and treadmill inclines is easier than running up them, so 60-minute workouts might be preferable to 30-minute workouts. A 150-pound person exercising for 60 minutes burns 544 calories walking up stairs, 456 calories walking 4 mph up a treadmill’s 5 percent incline and 830 calories walking 4 mph up a treadmill’s 15 percent incline.
- Bergen Record: Developer of First Home Treadmill Dies at 96
- State of Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services: Calories Burned Per Hour
- Controlling Cholesterol; Dr. Kenneth H. Cooper
- Discovery Health: Activity Calorie Burn Rate
- The Complete Guide to Walking for Health, Weight Loss, and Fitness; Mark Fenton
Jay Schwartz has had articles printed by the "Chicago Tribune," "USA Today" and many other publications since 1983. He's covered health, fitness, nutrition, business, real estate, government, features, sports and more. A Lafayette, Pa. college graduate, he's also written for several Fortune 500 corporate publications and produced business newsletters.