Sprint Up Those Stairs
Medical experts are always advising people to exercise in order to derive health benefits, but most of this advice is ignored by the general population. Many don’t have the time or equipment and don’t want to go to a gym. I recently read a study about a clever way to get in a workout that doesn’t require any gear. It’s very quick and has been proven to work. It can also be used by runners as a mid-day supplement to training.
If you are in a building with a staircase, with at least two levels, you have all you need. The study had participants climb the stairs “all-out” for twenty seconds and then rest a few minutes. They then repeated it two more times. These three very brief maximum efforts were repeated three times per week for six weeks. Testing showed that cardiorespiratory fitness — as measured by peak oxygen uptake — increased by an astounding 12%. That is an amazing reward for a tiny investment.
The participants in the study had been sedentary. It is unlikely that people who are already in fairly good shape will see anything approaching a 12% gain. I believe they will, however, see some gains, if they do a bit more than the three sprints three times per week. This could be a good mid-day exercise to bump up your metabolism, even if you ran in the morning. The study authors said an exercise bike could be used instead of stairs, and I am assuming an elliptical trainer would also work. Even running in place with high knees could max your heart rate.
The investigators also had some participants do sixty-second workouts instead of the twenty-second sprints. This time they had to go up and down in sixty-seconds. Again, it was done three times and repeated three days per week for six weeks. Now the improvement was only 7%, instead of 12%. It seems we can really put the pedal to the metal for twenty seconds, but when we know we will have to hold it for a full minute, we back off and take it easier. Twenty seconds seems to be the sweet spot here.
Since these are very intense maximal effort exercises, be sure you are medically cleared to participate.