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Intense Stair Climbing Can Improve Your Fitness: Study

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No time to hit the gym?

Brief but intense stair-climbing, which can be done almost anywhere, is just as good for the heart as a physical workout, a new study suggests.

A team of researchers at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada found that stair climbing is a convenient and easy way to fit exercise into your life, especially if your schedule is too packed. The study negates two common excuses of couch potatoes: no access to the gym and no time to visit one.

No Excuses

Kinesiology professor Martin Gibala, lead author of the new study, said stair climbing is a kind of exercise that anyone can do after work or during lunch hour.

"This research takes interval training out of the lab and makes it accessible to everyone," said Gibala, an expert at high-intensity interval training and author of a book called "The One Minute Workout."

Past studies have shown that vigorous stair climbing accumulated over long periods of time - about 70 minutes in seven days - can have positive benefits.

However, Gibala and his colleagues set out to investigate whether sprint interval training (SIT) is a time-efficient and effective alternative that improves heart health. SIT involves brief bursts of intense exercises separated by short periods of break.

Benefits of Stair Climbing

The research team recruited 31 women who were sedentary but otherwise healthy. They tested the effect of two different procedures, each of which lasted for 10 minutes, including periods of cool down, warm-up, and recovery.

The first procedure involved three bouts of continuous climbing that lasted for 20 seconds. The results of this first procedure were compared among women who ran through the same procedure but with an exercise bike that has been proven to improve fitness.

During the second procedure, participants vigorously climbed up and down one flight of stairs for 60 seconds - an experiment that can be performed at home.

Both protocols, which lasted for 30 minutes, increased the cardiorespiratory fitness of the participants, which is an important health marker for longevity.

Gibala said that instead of structuring your life around exercise, you can do stair climbing, especially if you don't have the time.

Aside from exercise, you can also slowly change your lifestyle and diet into foods that are good for your heart health. The American Heart Association suggests adding oatmeal, wheat berries, and quinoa to your diet to make it healthy.

Details of the new study are issued in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.

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