Women Running up Stairs

Photo by Maksim Goncharenok from Pexels

ATHENS, Greece — Taking an elevator is a wonderful convenience, but a new study finds it’s not doing anything for your longevity. Instead, researchers have found that opting to take the stairs can help you live a significantly longer life. Specifically, climbing a few flights of stairs each day slashes a person’s risk of cardiovascular disease and death — even if you’ve had a history of heart problems.

“If you have the choice of taking the stairs or the lift, go for the stairs as it will help your heart,” says study author Dr. Sophie Paddock of the University of East Anglia and Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital Foundation Trust in a media release. “Even brief bursts of physical activity have beneficial health impacts, and short bouts of stair climbing should be an achievable target to integrate into daily routines.”

Although cardiovascular disease is still the leading cause of death in the United States, researchers say regular exercise can help prevent it. Unfortunately, the new study, presented at ESC Preventive Cardiology 2024, notes that one in four adults worldwide don’t meet the recommended levels of physical activity.

In the U.S., the CDC notes that adults should be getting around 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week. That’s about 30 minutes of brisk walking a day for five days. The CDC also recommends adding two days of muscle-strengthening activities, where you engage all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms), to this exercise regime.

Dr. Paddock notes that climbing stairs is an easy and widely accessible form of exercise that people can do anywhere — from their apartment building to a city park. With that in mind, the new study looked at stair climbing’s influence on longevity and heart health.

Person walking up stairs, steps for exercise
The CDC notes that adults should be getting around 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week. That’s about 30 minutes of brisk walking a day for five days. (Photo by Bruno Nascimento on Unsplash)

The team gathered nine previous studies on climbing stairs involving more than 480,000 people. These studies examined a wide-ranging set of circumstances and did not discriminate based on the number of flights of stairs participants climbed or the speed people walked up those stairs. Those nine reports also included healthy people as well as those with peripheral arterial disease or a history of heart attacks. The participants ranged in age from 35 to 84.

Overall, the new study found that climbing stairs had a connection to a 24-percent lower risk of dying from any cause. Participants also had a 39-percent lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease. Moreover, taking the stairs helped these participants avoid some of the major complications of cardiovascular disease, including heart attack, heart failure, and stroke.

“Based on these results, we would encourage people to incorporate stair climbing into their day-to-day lives. Our study suggested that the more stairs climbed, the greater the benefits – but this needs to be confirmed. So, whether at work, home, or elsewhere, take the stairs,” Dr. Paddock concludes.

About Chris Melore

Chris Melore has been a writer, researcher, editor, and producer in the New York-area since 2006. He won a local Emmy award for his work in sports television in 2011.

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