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Simply Fit, by Cindy Haskin-Popp, will help you make physical activity a part of everyday life. The health benefits of regular exercise and overall daily physical activity will be discussed. Fun, practical and easy-to-follow tips on an exercise program will be shared, as will the most current research. Fitness tips for families and seniors, on fitness centers and on buying proper and affordable equipment will be regularly given. 

Monday, January 4, 2010

Direct Flight to Fitness

You needn't worry about experiencing any delays when you take this flight. Prompt arrival to your destination is anything but short of a guarantee. No, I am not speaking about air travel, but I am suggesting that you ascend your way to fitness by climbing a flight of stairs (or two).

Public health officials strongly advocate that you opt to take the stairs instead of an elevator while your are at work and/or the mall in order to boost your daily activity level. I am challenging you to take this recommendation a "step" further. Why not swap a session of your regular exercise program for a workout on the stairs once or twice a week? Need a good reason? For one, you burn almost twice as many calories by climbing the stairs than you would if you were to walk at a brisk pace of 3.5 mph for the same amount of time (e.g., about 143 calories versus 72 calories, respectively, in a fifteen minute time period for a person weighing 150 pounds). Other benefits of stair climbing include:*
  • Improved aerobic capacity
  • Reduced body fat
  • Smaller waist circumference
  • Lower blood pressure (diastolic blood pressure)
  • Decreased LDL (bad) cholesterol
*Information based on a study published in the European Heart Journal (2008) in which 69 subjects exclusively used the stairs for 12 weeks while at work in a hospital.

A bonus to a stair workout is that it strengthens your quadriceps (front thigh), calf, and buttocks muscles as you "carry" your own weight against gravity. You can easily adjust the intensity of your workout by how quickly you ascend the flight and whether you take one step at a time or skip a step. Depending on your fitness level, the stair landing can be used either to rest or to perform strength training exercises (wall push-ups).

Stair climbing is a readily accessible activity that can be taken indoors when weather conditions are inclement. Precautionary measures should be taken when choosing to use the stairs for your workout. Because stair climbing places great demands on your body, you should seek the approval of a physician to ensure you do not have any underlying conditions that warrant treatment and management prior to beginning a program. Stair climbing may not be a good exercise alternative for you if you have arthritis, particularly in your knees or hips. If you have back problems you might want to opt for another form of exercise.

Safety Tips for the Stair Climbing Workout:
  • Seek your doctor's approval.
  • Wear comfortable, well-fitted shoes with good arch support.
  • Inspect the stairwell to be used for hidden hazzards
  • Watch out for doors opening at floor exits.
  • Warm-up for 5 minutes prior to the session.
  • Progress slowly, especially if you are new to exercise in general. For a novice, consider walking up 1 flight of stairs followed by a 1-2 minute rest period. Alternate this scenario until you have completed 10 minutes of actual stair climbing (do not factor in time spent resting). Your goal should be to progress to an uninterrupted 10 minute session of stair climbing (that is, you do not need to rest in between flights climbed). Once you can complete 10 minutes comfortably, continue the progression until you can climb for 20 minutes, and then eventually for 30 minutes. For individuals accustomed to exercise, consider walking up 1 flight of stairs, followed by running up the next. Continue this pattern for 30 minutes. For both groups, a goal may be to add a 1/2 to 1 flight of stairs per week.
  • Cool-down for 5-10 minutes
  • Choose a stairwell that is well-lit with adequate ventilation.
  • Let someone know where you will be and your estimated time of return in the event of an emergency.
  • Carry your cell phone with you, especially if choosing a public stairwell that is in a remote area of the building.
  • Discontinue exercise if symptoms such as dizziness, lightheadedness, unusual shortness of breath, and/or chest discomfort occur. Seek medical attention if needed.
Note: Before beginning an exercise program or increasing the intensity level of a current routine, a physician's approval should be obtained, especially for older adults and those at risk for or who currently have chronic health conditions.

Compendium of Physical Activities: Classification of Energy Costs of Human Physical Activities.

European Heart Journal (2008) 29 )Abstract Submission), pp. 385-386, Meyer, P. et. al

"The Stair Climbing Workout - Stairs are Everywhere and They Provide a Great Workout," April 19, 2007, Beecher, J.

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