Stair climbing exercise & calories

Written by erik devaney
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Stair climbing exercise & calories
You can maintain a healthy posture when walking up stairs by keeping your back straight. (Michael Hitoshi/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Oddly, many people who are trying to burn calories and lose weight opt out of taking the stairs at work, the train station or at the shopping centre and instead choose to take the escalator or the lift. Stair-climbing, whether performed on actual stairs or on a stair-climbing machine, has the potential to help people burn calories. But the benefits you derive from climbing stairs will depend on your diet, as well as how much time and energy you put into the exercise.


Columbia University says there is no magic piece of equipment that can make you burn calories and lose fat faster during a workout. The key to burning calories, and subsequently losing weight, is creating an energy deficiency with your diet and exercise regimen. This means eating fewer calories than your body needs, expending more energy through exercise than you consume in the form of calories or combining the two strategies to create the deficit.

Aerobic exercise

The best method for expending energy, and burning up calories, is through aerobic exercise, which is exactly what stair-climbing provides. Aerobic exercise utilises oxygen to burn away calories from fatty foods such as cheese and meat, as well as the calories that come from carbohydrates like bread and pasta. As an aerobic exercise, climbing stairs also temporarily increases heart rate and respiration, which helps improve endurance.

Muscle groups

Exercises that involve the muscles in the lower body tend to be more effective at burning calories than exercises that target the upper body, the University of New Mexico says. This is because muscles in the lower body have more mass, pump more blood and are able to consume more oxygen. Stair-climbing exclusively and intensively focuses on the lower body, working the quadriceps, hip flexors, gluteal muscles, hamstrings and calves, says Georgia State University.


Both the aerobic nature of stair-climbing exercise and its focus on the lower body make the activity ideal for burning calories. In addition to helping in the weight loss process directly, stair-climbing can also help reverse the effects of diseases such as heart disease and type II diabetes. Lessening the impacts of these diseases can further maximise the body’s ability to burn calories.


The simplest way to achieve the calorie-burning benefits of stair-climbing is to climb stairs whenever possible. For example, if you are a few minutes early to work, spend those minutes walking up two, four or even 10 flights of stairs instead of waiting for the lift. Getting your stair-climbing exercise on a machine is another valid option. For optimal results working out on such a machine, Georgia State University recommends you do not lean or put weight on the handrails but instead use them only for balance.

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