Climb Those Stairs

Climb Those Stairs

“Take the stairs instead of the elevator” is a pretty common tip for exercise and weight loss. Many people avoid climbing stairs on a daily basis, but it’s a great tool for fitness. The other great thing about stairs is that you don’t need to have a gym membership or equipment to do them. Stairs are everywhere, including in your apartment building/home.

Stairs are tough, and that’s why I like them (and making people do them) so much. They are a great way to work on your strength, agility, and cardiorespiratory fitness. I know some people who can run 2 miles without much of a problem, but when it comes to walking up 2 flights of stairs, they’re out of breath and struggling. Additionally, climbing stairs burns about 5-10 calories per minute. I’d say 10 minutes of stairs is already a decent workout. 

When doing stairs, it’s key to watch your posture. Keep your back straight with a slight bend forward at the hips (but don’t lean forward as you go). When pushing off each stair with your foot, push off with the heel. This puts less strain on the knees and ensures that you’re using your hamstrings and glutes. Don’t swing your arms too much that you’ll lose balance. Try to make the pumping motions small and efficient.

How you measure progress is up to you–how many flights you climb, how long you do stairs for, etc. You can also do interval training by starting at a slower speed and then doing intervals at a faster speed. Some other variations you can add to make doing stairs more exciting:

  • Go up 2 steps at a time instead of 1. It’s a slightly different challenge for your leg muscles. Feel the burn. 
  • Go up the stairs backwards or sideways to work on agility. I recommend that you start at a walking pace and use the railing if needed because it takes a while to adjust to the movement. And definitely don’t walk down the stairs backwards! 
  • Also for agility, you can mix up the forward and backward movement. So for example, every 3 stairs you go up, go down 1. Start slow because again…you might end up tripping over your feet. 
  • Hop up the stairs. I have had people hop up 2 stairs at a time if hoping up 1 at a time seems easy for them to do. But this really ups the intensity, and it can be easy to lose balance/overshoot, so just be aware of that.
  • Do ladders. Run up to the 1st landing, go back down, then run up to the 2nd landing, go back down, up to the 3rd landing, etc. If you only have one landing, just run and down once, take a short rest, then run up and down 2x, take a break, run up and down 3x in a row, etc. 
  • For strength, add weights. Dumbbells, kettlebells, a plate, whatever you want.  

You might be surprised to know that walking down stairs is also important and will round out your workout a little better. So if you can, climb actual stairs instead of a machine. The benefit of using a machine though, is that it puts less stress on your joints (hips, ankles, knees) than real stairs. But climbing real stairs also allows for a fuller range of motion, so there are pros and cons to both. 

Yes, stairs are tough, but that’s why they’re worth doing. There are so many benefits to adding stairs into your workout routine. Our workouts shouldn’t be easy–getting comfortable means that you’re making progress, but it can also lead to complacency. Keeping pushing and “elevate” your fitness level with some stairs.


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