Health benefits of climbing stairs

The benefits of exercise are well-known, from better heart health and lower blood pressure to improved emotional state. There are many ways to be active on a regular basis, from workouts at the local gym to participating in sports and games, or engaging in activities as mundane as working in the garden, doing household chores, or using the stairs.

A new study by researchers at the University of East Anglia and Norfolk, and Norwich University Hospital Foundation Trust, in the United Kingdom, show that climbing stairs is associated with improved heart health and longevity. For their study, the researchers conducted a meta-analysis, examining nine studies with 480,479 participants in total. Study participants included healthy adults ages 35 to 84 and adults with a prior history of heart attack or peripheral arterial disease.

Following the analysis, researchers found that stair climbing was linked to a 24 percent reduced risk of death from any cause and a 39 percent lower risk of death from heart disease. Climbing stairs was also associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular events, such as heart attack, heart failure, and stroke.

The new study did not make a specific recommendation for stair climbing frequency. However, an earlier study in 2023 had suggested that aiming for three to six flights of stairs per day — assuming each flight is 10 to 15 steps — is a good goal for overall health. Another study recommended that climbing more than five flights of stairs (or around 50 steps) daily may reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases, such as stroke, heart attacks, and blood clots.

The amount of time spent climbing stairs and the rate of engaging in this activity may largely depend on the individual’s motive, whether as a form of physical exercise or from a need to remain fit. Researchers behind the new study said that the next phase of their research aims to focus on objectively evaluating the optimal number of stairs people should be climbing each day and at what intensity.

Aerobic exercises such as walking, running, biking, and swimming have been shown to help strengthen the heart and improve its ability to pump blood more efficiently, reducing the risk of heart failure.. Climbing stairs briskly is a form of vigorous aerobic exercise, which provides numerous heart health benefits.Climbing stairs is considered to be a vigorous physical activity.

Cardiovascular disease affects the heart and blood vessels. Previous studies have shown that exercise strengthens the heart muscle and improves vascular function. Other positive effects from regular exercise include improved nitric oxide production, improved vascular endothelial function, and reduced cardiovascular risk factors.

Regular aerobic exercise helps lower blood pressure over a 24-hour period, which increases flexibility in the blood vessels and reduces the risk of high blood pressure (hypertension). Exercise also increases levels of ‘good’ HDL cholesterol, which helps reduce ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol and the risk of atherosclerosis. In addition, exercise helps regulate blood sugar and improve insulin sensitivity, which helps reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and related blood vessel damage.

The results of this study is a reminder on the need to encourage people to incorporate more physical activity into their daily lives, and influence policy makers and health care professionals to promote physical activity, including stair climbing.

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