No Time For Gym? 30 Minutes *A Week* On Stairs Just As Good, Study Finds

ONTARIO — Is too much time at home or work keeping you away from your local gym? Good news: a new study finds that all you need is a staircase and 30 minutes a week to give your body a great workout.

The findings were published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, and conducted by researchers at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada. The study shows that intense bursts of exercise for short periods of time can be critically beneficial for one’s heart health.

A new study finds that all you need for a great workout is a set of stairs and just 30 minutes — a week!

In the study, stair sprints were used as an example of sprint interval training, or SIT. The researchers recognized that such exercises can improve cardiorespitory health. Lead author Martin Gibala, a professor of kinesiology at the university, has dedicated an abundance of research into high-intensity interval training over the years. He wrote a book regarding the topic, titled “The One Minute Workout,” which was published earlier this month.

Gibala and his team conducted their study on 31 individuals. The participants were all women who were fairly inactive, but otherwise healthy. The participants were divided into two separate groups, and each group committed to an exercise routine.

Both groups were also required to participate in 10 minute sessions that included warm-ups, cool-downs, and recovery periods. The groups were devoted to their exercising for a total of a month-and-a-half. They performed their workouts three times a week, totaling nearly 20 sessions.

The first protocol required three sessions of 20-second stair climbing, in an “all-out” type of method. These exercises were compared to participants who practiced the same protocol, but instead using an exercise bike.

During the second part of the observation, participants climbed intensely up and down a flight of stairs for 60 seconds each.

Both protocols required the participants to exercise for 30 minutes each week that they were involved in the study. The research showed that the participants experienced a significant improvement in cardiorespitory fitness. The study noted that this is a key point that is linked to life longevity.

“Stair climbing is a form of exercise anyone can do in their own home, after work or during the lunch hour,” Gibala says in a release. “This research takes interval training out of the lab and makes it accessible to everyone.”

Of course, when making any significant change to your workout routine, it’s always a good bet to consult a doctor first.

Comments

  1. Of course you might want to consult your doctor if you haven’t exercised for a while and you’re thinking about starting with 60 seconds of intense stair climbing. Easy does it, cow-pokes.

    1. Over 30 seconds of all out ANY intense exercise without warmup is how snow shoveling winds up killing people with heartaches.

      1. Because of the cold weather’s effect on blood flow, even athletes, bodybuilders and those who are in shape can have a cardiac episode, infarction (heart attack) if they shovel snow without sufficient conditioning, stretching and technique specific to the activity (shoveling).
        Additional factor: Men go all out to finish the task in one shot via just strength. Most women in a standard society usually have a superior cardiovascular conditioning when coupled with breaks, leads to fewer shoveling related injuries and incidents.
        I have one deck which is a heart attack waiting to happen so I purchased an electric shovel and installed an outlet specifically for this deck. After this I am warmed up and then easily shovel everything else.

        NOTE: The price of the electric shovel, the appropriate extension cord and installed outlet is far, far,far cheaper than any hospital stay by tens of thousands of dollars. This o e was a no Brainerd.

        1. Breathing in freezing air will rapidly constrict carotid arteries by as much as 60% within 30 minutes. If one had a minor 20% obstruction, it would become an 80% obstruction in the cold air. Cold weather also makes blood more likely to form clots. Trapping the air in an air-pocket in front of the face (using a scarf or a tube hood for example) allows the air to warm up before it is inhaled. This will significantly reduce the constriction of the carotid arteries when being active in cold weather. Shoveling snow is an extreme cardiac workout and, according to the researchers, raises the heart rate to more than 75% of its maximum rate. Even fit young men will have significantly increased blood pressure performing snow shoveling in cold weather and are at a higher risk of heart attack. Use a scarf. It might save your life.

          1. A plus. I failed to mention that I use a circular scarf , tactical circular scarf, neck gaiter (sometimes a sleeve which I had cut off a shirt or sweater) to provide both warmth and evaporation in the neck area. Additionally, when the snow blows back in my face, pulling the cover up to my eyes makes the airborne snow of no effect.

  2. Good article, been running stairs for years in order to play hockey at age 62. but DO NOT run down stairs as this will take a huge toll on your knees. Try running up the stairs and then walk down or take the elevator.

    1. Playing hockey is even better for you as long as you guys aren’t slamming each other around like the pros do.

      1. As a 60 year old who still plays, it’s the falls that get you. Last week fell on the side of my thigh, woke up next morning with a blue and black leg.

      1. Try traversing the slope on the way down. Friends have a steep driveway and they think I’m hysterical as I cross the fall line of their driveway several times, but the strain on my legs is much less than trying to struggle directly up the slope.

        1. Thanks! I do traverse down on steep slopes as well, it is much easier on the joints. I really like the exercise of hiking up the slopes but hate the coming down part, I would much rather go up, and then go up again, to get down. LOL.

    2. Never thought about that, as an engineer that sounds true. I won’t run down the stairs anymore. My weight of 240 lbs, acceleration and gravity. Factor all that up and that is a lot of force applied to the knee joints which is a small area on each knee. I thank you as I think you just helped me.

    3. That’s spot on. Good for you. I’m playing in my 25th season as a catcher in an amateur baseball league. Started in the 30 and over but have been playing in the open division since 1999 and won a few national championships over the years, in different age catagories.

  3. i guess climbing the 100 stairs up to my 6th floor walk up in the east village of madhattan 4-8 times a day for 37 years has been good for me.

    1. Good, but lifting weights and other forms of exercise to augment stair climbing is considerably more beneficial.

      1. i’m 64 and in great shape… i walk everywhere here in madhattan. haven’t had a car since 77. i carry everything up and down…. up and down…… up and down…

      2. Yeah, and folks that solely climb stairs aren’t going to look nearly as good as a lifter. There are a couple of old guys in my gym with the physiques of guys in their 20.

          1. Surely you recognize the Druid 682XX Knucklehead Buster ? It comes in the green the model is wearing and a lovely Aqua shade as well.

    2. I lived on the fifth floor of a walk up on Third Ave. near 88th Street for eight years and I would be exhausted by the time I got to my apartment at the end of a long day at work. I thought of it as a good substitute if I was too tired to go to the gym. Manhattan is an easy place to stay in shape with all the walking also. I never had a car so I would try to walk everywhere if it wasn’t too far.

  4. Nonsense! Lifting weights is very important for retaining good health, strength, and bone density. I know because I’ve been a gym member for 38 years. I’m very healthy at age 65 with zero need for drugs.

      1. I eat some junk with the good stuff. So does my healthy neighbor who just turned 100 last November. I don’t think I’ll live that long or be as healthy as he is if I do, though. Very few do.

        1. I’m on the same page as you. Age 58, take no meds, and will do anything to avoid them. In my late 40’s my doctor prescribed a statin. At the time I was out of shape and 20 lbs. overweight. Now I realize there was no need for the statin, given my family history and other health markers. I wasn’t going to have a heart attack.

          A few years ago I got serious, started eating well (but ate some junk) and lost 20 lbs. in no time. The next year my doctor said no need for statins.

          You’ve been doing it 38 years, which is great! I’ve only been doing it for three years, and I love it. And it wasn’t too late for me, and it’s not to late for 95% of the population.

          Great for everybody, except Big Pharma.

          1. Amazing! Same thing in my 40’s. My cholesterol was 225, mostly good. My doctor said I may have to take a statin. I replaced 2% milk with soy milk in my cereal, lost 10 pounds without trying, and my cholesterol dropped to 158. It’s been over 220 a couple times in the last few years, but came in around 190 this year despite all the ice cream I had been eating. Perhaps the almond butter and walnuts had something to do with it. I’m 6’2 and my weight has been under 200 for a couple decades. I’ve never been over 215.

          2. Here’s a head’s up on the statin scam.

            My cousin is 70, is in great health, works out, eats well, never smoked, no family history, perfect weight, and takes a statin. It was a WTF moment for me. Why the hell is he taking a statin?

            Check out this website from the American Heart Association: http://www.cvriskcalculator.com

            Enter the age of 70. Then enter good numbers (say 180 total cholesterol, 50 HDL, 110 over 70 blood pressure, and check “no” for everything else.

            And they don’t even ask your height and weight and family history, or if you exercise.

            Guess what? No matter what numbers that are entered, you need a statin. That’s right. According to the AHA, EVERY 70-year-old male needs a statin.

            And I call TOTAL BS!

    1. i’m with the no drug team as well, but only run when being chased (never) and lift and carry everything up the stairs everyday. 40lbs of laundry, groceries, my skinny butt…. my big head…..

      1. I pay $30 a month to a great health club full of great exercise equipment and nice, like-minded people. Not only is my exercise routine more beneficial than climbing stairs, I don’t get bored, I enjoy the atmosphere, and I enjoy socializing. So, go climb your stairs and save your money.

        1. Without a health club I never would have gotten into shape. And my gym is packed. I guess the “just climb stairs” advise has not taken hold (nor will it ever take hold). I’m $25/month. Can’t beat it.

    1. I just saw a member avatar of a cat with a lime peel on its head, you are named El Gato, and I just saw a show on animal planet about cats. WTH is going on in this world?

  5. ” stair sprints were used as an example of sprint interval training,”

    This body doesn’t “sprint” anywhere unless it’s no fire.

      1. I’ve been a prime candidate for Type 2 diabetes at least 30 years. At age 66, I’m not much worried.

        Thanks for your concern tho’.

  6. Interesting article. I am glad to read about the beneficial effects of stair climbing. I have often thought about how much cheaper it is than paying for a gym membership. I also use the stairs to reach up to the step above my head and do pushoffs. I do leg and back stretches and leg raises.

    1. I eat a large fries a double cheeseburger OR a whole pizza plus 2 rice krispy treats and 2 bowls of cinnamon toast crunch everyday (all in one meal), i’m 215lbs @ 12% body fat 😀

  7. I’ve heard that some people get hooked on exercise or a “runner’s high”. Not me. I won’t get hooked on a “runner’s high”. I’ve got will power. I don’t think I will ever be addicted to exercise. I suppose the best solution is to just never start, and then you don’t have to worry about getting addicted.

  8. At 70, I use the gym. Run, lift weights etc. I also teach classical Japanese Judo and participate in rondori. Once a week I teach pre world war two Japanese Jujitsu. No rules. Again I also participate. If you keep it up, it will keep up with you

      1. If you cannot keep it up, then you should buy my handy dandy erection kit. When you see a wonderful lady simply unzip, then reach into the box. Grab both bricks and slam it between them. IT will rise to the occasion. BUT there is a warning WATCH OUT THAT YOU DO NOT GET YOUR THUMBS IN THE WAY

    1. It’s good you also run in addition to lifting weights. Some people make the mistake of only lifting weights and neglecting the cardio. This is hard on the health.

      1. I was born in Ukraine. When brought to this country placed in a County Foster FARM. We used the ped mobile every day and I never thought much of it. When in the USMC, we ran, humped long distances etc and again to me it was normal. People who only lift, do not have the energy when running. Summer, I run about 8 miles in the soft sand at the beach, Takes me 1.45 but I feel excellent afterwards.

      2. Agree 223, while I respect the weight training and do a little myself (for basic toning and burning, not to get huge), neglecting cardio IMO is a big mistake. Frankly if given a choice, I’d much rather have super-endurance (and I do) than look like Ferrigno. No reason not to do a lot of the one you love, and a bit of the other too.

  9. Good article and great information. I’ll start the stair routine right after my two cheese burritos digest…or next month.

    1. All the exercise in the world won’t allow a person to lose weight if they are taking in too many calories. There aren’t enough hours in the day to exercise weight off if one consumes too many calories, even if one doesn’t have a job.

    2. Person223 is right. It’s in your diet. Check out Bigger Leaner Stronger or Thinner Leaner Stronger (gal version). I got so much stronger and lost 50.

  10. Yes 30 minutes of HIIT (high intensity interval training) is the same as 3 hours of cardio with out the muscle damaging effects. old news. But you still have to go to the gym for resistance training.

  11. You know what’s funny. After years and years of working as a personal trainer at health clubs and competing (and winning) in fitness contests…. all I do now is watch what I eat, do a few reps here and there will little 10 pound weights… and walk stairs for 30 minutes about 2 times a week. And I stay in great shape. So I think this article is one of the first health related articles on the internet that I’ve read in a long time that actually contains some good advice. When I don’t have access to stairs, I use one of those plastic steps that people use to step up and reach things.

    1. I just hate going to places like planet fitness where the personal trainers look like the couch potatoes. If only they would practice what they learned.

  12. Don’t have time for the gym or just not getting enough exercise? Don’t worry, pretty soon you’ll have to be cutting your own grass, our president is going to do his job and throw the Mexicans out. It really amazes me all the people going to the gym to “work out” when they could be doing a little manual labor. I guarantee you, it is more satisfying than working out since you’re doing something productive. Do your own work and you can actually say, “I did that.” And how many times have you seen some of those who pay to “work out” drive around a parking lot trying to find a spot at the front so they don’t have to walk? Park out back and walk. You won’t have to spend so much time and money working out and you will probably have fewer door dings in your foreign SUV.

    1. Gasp! I do both. You aren’t going to get a full body workout doing household chores. You may not want to spend the money for the gym, but I look sexy as hell for my time there. Mowing, gardening and home maintenance are bonus.

      1. Damn straight. I put a gym together at home and go at it religiously. Why stop doing all the yard work and maintenance? About to go pull some crabgrass right now bah haha

    2. I agree I raise a big garden and though we have a roto tiller, I use a shovel to clear the ground and kill the weeds. I also pick our fruit and mow weeds and grass on our farm. Eating the fruits of your labor is more satisfying than using the gym.

    3. Good point, but….the purpose of “gym exercise” or exercise in a controlled environment is to gain strength while limiting injury risk. So you can do the things you just mentioned. Maybe when you get a little older and have back surgery or any injury you will see a)not all labor activities are easy or good for your body b)you shouldn’t base your opinion of something based on the lowest denomination. Most people ago to gym to exercise in a social environment. ITs not so bad.

      1. I’ll be 67 next month and still work daily; in my shop, on my land and now personally remodeling my house. For several years up to 4 years ago I contracted overseas with the military. I saw injuries by soldiers working out in the gym in that controlled environment but I never got hurt despite (properly) lifting armor off trucks so I could work on them. Yes, I saw a need for soldiers to vigorously work out to build their stamina and body strength but for the average Joe doing physical labor is more than enough exercise to keep healthy. Now if you work out to socialize and you enjoy that then do it. But I’d rather go drink a beer. .

        1. They are training wrong. I would argue that humans have exercised in groups and have tried to master their bodies for 1000s of years. just because some go about it in a counterproductive way that doesn’t mean the other 80% aren’t getting a great benefit. I do agree the “stressful” training and damaging your body, like in crossfit or heavy weight lifting is not good for the body. I hear what your saying..my uncle is 75 years old and 140 pounds and can bail hay faster than an 18 year old husky boy. There is gym strength and real functional “man”strength. Just remember not everyone is lucky like you. you may be the exception, not the rule.

    4. Even if he did, which won’t be the case, there’s millions of people waiting in line to legally enter the country. They will gladly do any job that opens up after the hiring of U.S. citizens has pretty much ended.

  13. Sounds even worse than the people who do the “weekend warrior” type workout. Just going to end up hurting themselves. So many of these kinds of studies can be damaging to people that listen to them.

    Truth is this.

    Get into nutrition, educate yourself, and start to feed your body good food instead of processed trash. Then get into a basic workout routine that you can do around 3 to 4 times a week and never EVER stop doing it. For most people, don’t even bother with a gym. Between the time it takes to drive there, do your workout, and drive home, you’ll end up burning out on it. I’ve seen it happen far too many times. Get a basic set of free weights and do workouts at home. They’ll pay for themselves in no time at all, and it saves even more time just for the fact that you’re at home.

    In the end, your arteries will thank you, along with your joints, bones, and muscles. If you start at a young age, and keep this up, you’ll end up still feeling younger even when you’re 60.

    The real problem most all people run into, is becoming stagnant. Our bodies were meant to be used. Not over fed with our butts being sat on all day. Stay active throughout your life.

    Yeah, I’m no expert. Just a guy who did all of this many years ago, lost almost 100 pounds of fat (and continuously kept it off), and have been in the greatest shape of my life ever since.

    1. Amen!! God I hate these “studies”. As a fitness trainer I consider them terribly damaging to people wanting to get back into shape. All these 10-30 min a week workouts do is release a huge amount of cortisol into the joints causing inflammation and injury. You need a balanced routine of cardio 3-4 days a week 30-60 min sessions, plus strength training and a diet light on carbs and sugar and heavy on protein, fiber, fruits and vegetables. Honestly the diet is probably 60-70% of the battle in terms of losing weight, and for god sakes avoid crash diets – the intent is a lifelong change in how you eat vs the yo-yo effect.

    1. Take your old newspapers and junk mail, phone books, dismantled cardboard sheets. pile it into Walmart’s 60-egg container, tape it and you have a 12x12x5 inch^3 step. Over the years you can accumulate enough to have a decent jungle gym.

  14. I’ve done every type of exercise routine known to humanity. This article is another load of crap where you isolate any one thing and say it’s the universal exercise cure.

  15. What a bunch of crock. “Health Study” on basic minimal cardiovascular maintenance to boost the confidence of those who live a sedentary lifestyle.

  16. As is the rule these days, the headline of the story and the content of the story are two different points. The headline implies that 30 minutes of stairs per week for any individual is equal to a full exercise regimen at the gym. Intuitively, we readers click on because the premise is nonsensical, but, we are curious to find a surprise.

    The article then shows that the premise is about a specific segment of society: “Inactive” women. The conclusion then is as obvious as the Sun is round at that point: Lazy people will benefit immediately from simply getting off their fat arses and moving their bodies against some resistance in order to strengthen bones and get the blood flowing. Since they are incapable of lifting heavy weights for an hour and running 3-miles at an 8-minute pace, for example, it is intuitively obvious that lazy people who never exercise will benefit from taking the initial steps to becoming physically active because making the first step is the hardest step.

    In sum, for all out there who were hoping to skip out on your 5-day 1-hour sessions at the gym to simply climb steps for 5-minutes per day…no luck, Charlie.

    1. That was my point too. of coarse you are going to see amazing benefits from a stair climb even for just 10 minutes a week if your a couch potato, this is the same type of study that Those as seen on tv workouts claiming they can get you to lose 10 lbs in a month, its because anyone going from 0 to something is going to see those type of gains then plateau after that.

  17. I am 74 and helping care for our three year old grand daughter four days a week. I walk to and from a park 1/4 mile from the house in about seven minutes. I have cross country skied 32 times this season. Weight lifting comes with carrying our grand daughter during chases. My only medication is for glaucoma in one eye, and I don’t even have arthritis, just aches from when I was in the service. Thanks to this article, I don’t have to feel guilty for being lazy in not doing more.

  18. 30 minutes of exercise a week. Yeah, okay. I’ve seen people with that workout routine riding around in Walmart on a scooter.

  19. Different workouts will invariably produce different results. Your workout should target whatever your objectives are. If cardiovascular fitness and weight control is your thing then stairclimbing is an option. But it’s not a panacea for your ideally envisioned body.

  20. I think I will auto a book called “the no workout workout”. I will throw in some diagrams and charts, place a hulking female on the over and have some marathon runners and some body builders write great quotes about the benefits of not working out. I will make the NY Times Bestseller list. Make a lot of cash.

  21. I have apart time job with pizza deliveries. I get a nice workout and my wife thinks I am out of shape which isn’t true, lol.

  22. HA ! Who here has spent 30 minutes a day climbing stairs ? Give me a break ! Oh, I have some more advice for a long life….eat a pound of kale per day .

      1. Per week ? Well that’s pathetic. Let’s see…..30 divided by 7…carry the one…square root of pi……
        less then 5 minutes a day is going to save you ? Don’t think so.

  23. I am 65 yrs old, and have been running my stairs a few times a week to the beat of the music, to keep in shape and lose a little weight.
    It helps lower my blood pressure, and bpm. Also lowered my cholesterol and blood sugar, so I was able to stay off medication so far.

  24. 30 minutes of cardio per week is healthy, but for peak fitness and optimal health, you need more – SORRY!
    Some of us are not interested in meeting the minimum standards.

  25. Great exercise, but no way does 30 minutes a WEEK walking up stairs sub for regular exercise. As a fitness person, I can definitely say that you should not allow your body to take a 167.5 hour break from exercise each week. That’s just stupid. Plus, regular exercise does much more that help you physically, it lifts your spirits and keeps your mood good. Just another asinine, ridiculous article looking to justify laziness.

  26. I dont buy this article, Anyone going from no physical activity to 30 minutes is going to see a significant improvement to cardiorespitory fitness. That is just what happens when anyone gets off their butts. This is promoting people to settle for less. All those As seen on TV gimmicks have the same study when you do this for x number of weeks you will see results. most those people plateau and lose interest, and that is all this article is doing is pushing people to settle for less then their best.

  27. The fitness community refers to this as HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training), not SIT. And yes, we’ve known for many years that HIIT training has benefits.

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