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Climbing stairs can be the secret weapon to protect your heart and ensure longevity; see how

New research reinforces the fact that climbing and descending stairs benefits the cardiovascular system and reduces all-cause mortality

Choosing the stairs over the elevator has been considered wise advice for years, but new research backs up this health advice. A meta-analysis recently presented at a European Society of Cardiology conference found that people who habitually climb stairs were 39 percent less likely to die from heart disease than those who didn’t. They also had a lower risk of stroke and heart attack.

“I was surprised by such a simple way of exercise can reduce all-cause mortality,” study author Sophie Paddock of the University of East Anglia and the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital Foundation Trust in the United Kingdom told NPR.

His team looked at data from about 480,000 participants, analyzing their risk of heart disease based on factors such as blood pressure, smoking history, cholesterol and genetic risk factors. The participants, aged between 30 and 80, also answered questions about their lifestyle and exercise habits. Those who used stairs were better protected from heart disease beyond age 12.

How many flights of stairs should you climb?

A 2023 study, published in the journal Atherosclerosis, I looked at exactly how many flights of stairs you need to climb every day to improve your heart health. The short answer? Just go up five offers a day could reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by 20%.

“Researchers found a 19% relative risk reduction for heart disease in participants who regularly climbed five flights of stairs a day,” says Yvonne Covin, MD, an internal medicine physician. “Unfortunately, those who initially climbed the stairs but then stopped had a 32% greater risk of heart disease than those who did no exercise at all.”

Like all research, this study has its limitations, according to Robert Harrington, a cardiologist and dean of Weill Cornell Medicine. “The study was conducted using data from the UK Biobank, a large observational/epidemiological study that has been widely used for research purposes,” he says. Because it was observational, it could not establish a cause-and-effect relationship (as in “climbing more stairs equals fewer cardiac events”); rather, the study simply highlights associations between this activity and heart health.

Because climbing stairs feels so good

Heart disease accounts for one in five deaths in the United States each year, killing approximately 695,000 people each year. Climbing stairs falls into the category of Aerobics exercisesor movement that increases heart rate and oxygen levels using repetitive activities. Overall, aerobic exercise reduces the risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and, yes, heart disease.

“Stair climbing is similar to many activities such as walking, running and cycling, which are associated with improvements in cardiovascular risk, such as reduced heart attacks,” says Harrington. “Climbing stairs can be a little more challenging than simply walkingand it also requires a bit of balance and strength, capable of combating a problem such as fragility and muscle weakness.”

Even taking a few dozen steps before sitting at your desk all day can improve longevity. “As we age, climbing stairs can improve leg and back strength, and this can help prevent falls,” Covin describes. Specifically, postmenopausal women who climb stairs showed greater bone density.

How to start climbing stairs to improve heart health

To start improving your heart health today, Harrington recommends incorporating some form of aerobic activity, which may include climbing stairs, into your exercise regimen.

“Per American Heart Association recommendations, I ask patients to aim for 150 minutes a week of moderate exercise (30 minutes, five days a week). Most of the time, that means walking at a moderate pace and lifting weights light to maintain strength three times a week,” he says.

Climbing stairs is considered “moderate exercise” because it burns about 8 to 11 calories per minute.

That said, exercise isn’t the only way to improve your health. Covin recommends keeping it six pillars of lifestyle medicine keep this in mind when choosing how to support your mind and body. “Lifestyle medicine is a medical subspecialty focused on evidence-based methods to support heart health,” she explains.

These six pillars include many classic tips you’ve probably heard before: eat whole, plant-based foods whenever possible; prioritize restful sleep; do those 150 minutes of movement a week; avoid risky substances, such as tobacco and alcohol; and make time for social connections.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that approximately 80% of cases of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes could be prevented by prioritizing these six behaviors.

Three stair workouts to try

While a simple walk up the stairs offers many benefits, you can also try increasing the intensity with workouts on stairs near you or on the treadmill at your gym.

  • Interval training on stairs

Alternate between climbing one flight of stairs at a controlled pace and another at a slightly faster (but still safe and controlled) pace. Repeat three to five times, depending on how comfortable you feel. Take a break and repeat the workout one or two more times.

  • Climbing stairs and rhythmic gymnastics

Design a circuit workout for yourself that includes climbing a few flights of stairs at a moderate pace and then hitting the floor for strength training, doing push-ups or sit-ups. For example, you might climb three flights of stairs, perform 10 squats, and rest for a minute before repeating the entire circuit.

  • Climb the stairs in time

For a straightforward workout, simply set the timer on your watch or phone for 10 minutes and walk with a slow, steady effort up the stairs or on the treadmill at the gym. Take a five-minute break at the end of the 10 minutes before returning for another 10-minute effort.

This content was translated with the help of artificial intelligence tools and reviewed by our editorial team. Find out more in our Artificial Intelligence Policy.

Source: Terra

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