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Why you can run 10 miles but get winded walking up stairs

Ever met a distance runner who couldn't walk up three flights of stairs without panting? It turns out that science has something to do with it.
(Photo: Jorg Badura / Trunk Archive/

By Lindsey Emery for 

Ever met a distance runner who couldn’t walk up three flights of stairs without panting? Or a group fitness devotee who loses steam after a mile on the treadmill? Among even the most avid exercisers, all cardio is not created equal. And it turns out science has something to do with it.

Deciphering Your Cardio DNA: “We are all genetically predisposed to being good at certain types of activities, depending on our muscle fiber makeup,” says Alex Zimmerman, an exercise physiologist and manager of Equinox’s Tier 4 program. “People with more slow-twitch fibers (Type A) tend to have better endurance, while people with more fast-twitch fibers (Type B) are better at producing short, explosive movements, such as jumping or sprinting.” And both types process oxygen differently during exercise, which is why you might feel like you’re going to die on the stairs but power through on marathon day.

Keep reading for more on how you can change your cardio DNA…

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