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Small Steps, Big Gains!

“Whoooooo that was harder than I thought?!” I muttered to myself after climbing 10 flights of stairs with my backpack. I had been running late for a meeting in New York’s Flat Iron District last week and instead of using the notoriously slow elevator, I had decided to the take the stairs. What an experiment that was!

My legs were burning and I noticed my heart rate had escalated. What gives? I am an athlete. Plus, I just returned from Patagonia where I went on numerous 20 mile hikes, yet I found myself feeling challenged after just a few minutes of stair climbing.

We have always heard sayings like, “take the stairs” or “park farther away,” but do you know why it is important to do so? Reports have been coming out recently about the benefits of standing vs sitting or how being sedentary for long periods of time can lead to a higher risk of heart disease – even if you workout!

I am constantly on the go, so I never really sit down for too long. However, most people are not as lucky and find themselves sitting in their offices for extended periods of time.

Sitting for long periods of time can be detrimental not only to your muscles and joints, but also to the way your body breaks down sugar. It is a bitter pill to swallow: the technologies that make our lives easier also make us unhealthier.

Doing small everyday activities, like taking the stairs in your work building, is one way to add great ancillary exercises into your daily life. It’s time to loosen and strengthen your muscles to avoid the dreaded “secretary ass.”

There are no excuses why you cannot take the stairs either. So you work on the 80th floor? Great, get off at the 75th floor or even the 78th floor. Take the stairs up a few flights before you head out to lunch and the elevator back down if need be. The opportunities are endless for you if you just think outside of the box.

Start slow though. Walk a flight of stairs and add a flight each day. Think how easy this could be for you. You enter your building in the morning and head out for lunch and then leave for home in the evening…that is 3 times up and 3 times down.

Do a few flights of stairs each time and I can guarantee you will like the way your body responds. Take a look at the chart below and keep in mind the amount of calories burned climbing stairs will depend on your weight:

Calories Burned Climbing Stairs

If you weigh roughly 130 pounds: 295 calories burned climbing stairs per hour

If you weigh roughly 155 pounds: 352 calories burned per hour

If you weigh roughly 180 pounds: 409 calories burned per hour

If you weigh roughly 205 pounds: 465 calories burned per hour

Even descending stairs burns some calories and will add up. Which is good, because every flight of stairs you walk up will have to be descended down at some point.

Calories Burned Descending Stairs

If you weigh roughly 130 pounds: 177 calories burned descending stairs per hour

If you weigh roughly 155 pounds: 211 calories burned per hour

If you weigh roughly 180 pounds: 245 calories burned per hour

If you weigh roughly 205 pounds: 279 calories burned per hour

All data is from the Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise Journal, the official Journal of the American College of Sports Medicine.

Taking two flights of stairs daily helps you burn enough calories to drop 6 pounds in a year, reports Reader’s Digest. If you can up that to two minutes of climbing, five times per week the calorie burn will be equivalent to adding an extra 36-minute walk per week.

Forget the elevator today. Taking the stairs is one of the easiest ways to work your glutes, core, quads, calves, hamstrings, and lower back. Walking up stairs not only strengthens and tones your muscles, but it can also offset your heart attack risk. It is too easy to not give it a try. So do your body some good and take a few flights today. No excuses.