Is a Stairmaster helpful in losing weight or toning?

Written by angela brady
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Is a Stairmaster helpful in losing weight or toning?
The Stairmaster is like an endless flight of stairs. (stairs image by Nikolai Sorokin from

In the battle to shed fat and build lean muscle, many people turn to exercise machines. The Stairmaster is one of the most popular machines, and can be found in almost any gym, including many home gyms. If you are considering adding the Stairmaster to your fitness routine, first consider your current state of fitness as well as your overall goals. Whether you are looking to slim down, tone up or both, chances are the Stairmaster can help you get there.


The Stairmaster is a stationary step-climbing simulator -- basically, the experience emulates an endless flight of stairs. The working part consists of two platforms that sink individually as you lean your body weight on them, and rise as you lean the other way. The goal is to not let the platforms touch the floor, so you are encouraged to step at a pace that allows each platform to rise before it sinks all the way down. You control the resistance by means of an electronic control panel that will also track the length of your workout in both time and distance.

Cardiovascular Workout

By setting the Stairmaster on a low resistance setting, you get a vigorous cardiovascular workout because of the speed with which you are required to step. Think of it as the equivalent of running up a flight of stairs -- only with the Stairmaster, you never reach the next floor. Moderate to high-intensity aerobic workouts are considered critical to lasting weight loss, and the Stairmaster is a safe, indoor option to have in your arsenal.

Resistance Training

The Stairmaster is more than just a cardio machine. By setting the resistance to a high level, you increase the force required to make each platform sink. This is a form of resistance training that works the large muscle groups of the lower body, resulting in stronger, tighter, toned legs, gluteal muscles, lower back, and hip flexors. It is the equivalent of doing body-weight squats, except you can safely increase the speed to add a cardiovascular component as well.


Stairclimbing has been used as a calorie-burning workout for decades, except in the past, athletes had to find an actual flight of stairs to climb. With real stairs, you can only go up so far before you have to spend time coming back down again. The Stairmaster is a more effective stair-climbing exercise because you just keep going up until the end of your workout. Actual calorie burn depends upon your weight and level of exertion, but a moderate stair-climbing workout can burn up to nine calories per minute.


Although the Stairmaster is considered safe, it does require a bit of balance. Leaning on the handrails for the entire session greatly reduces the effectiveness of the workout, and you will not see such dramatic results. For the best workout, you should be able to balance without leaning on the rails. The Stairmaster also requires you to put stress on the hip and knee joints, so if you have joint issues, you may want to consider an alternate aerobic exercise. Always consult your doctor before beginning a new exercise routine.

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