HIIT Training Workouts

This 8-Minute Stair Climbing Workout Is Equivalent to Running 1 Mile

Tehrene Firman

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If you’re trying to create an effective exercise routine without leaving the —one that includes adequate cardio—you should definitely think about adding a stair climbing workout into the mix. “The most obvious benefit of stair climbing workouts is that you’re fighting gravity more than you are when walking or running on flat ground,” says Eric Cohen, 99 Walks coach and competitive CrossFit athlete and trainer. “That requires your body to work harder. Your legs must balance more and stabilize your lower body, and your core is activated more as well.”

Another benefit of stair climbing workouts is that, as you’re working harder, you’re taxing your aerobic system to a greater degree, giving a stair workout a great one-two punch for effectiveness, says Cohen.

Going down the stairs might seem like the easy part, but don’t be fooled. “You’ll activate different muscles and use them in the eccentric phase—your quads in particular. Eccentric contractions of your muscles can be thought of as the ‘braking’ phase—the slowing yourself as you walk down the stairs,” he says. “Even anyone who works out regularly rarely focuses on this type of movement. If you feel sore after your first try, it may very well be from the coming down, not the going up.”

Cohen says climbing about 40 flights of stairs is comparable to running or walking a mile. That said, it’s a lot harder for some people. You’re using a different set of muscles when you climb the stairs, and it can take some time to work up to a full mile of stair-climbing in one stretch. Below, Cohen provides three different levels of stair climbing workouts to get you started.

Choose a stair climbing workout, according to your intensity level

If you’re a stair-climbing newbie:

Intensity level: beginner

Each stair climbing workouts include 25 flights of stairs up and down. Cohen says if you live in a shorter building, you can adjust the workouts so they work with going up and down a few flights. If you have access to a taller building, you can work from 1 to 10 instead of  to 5, which leaves you at a total of 55 flights.

  1. Walk up one flight of stairs, walk down.
  2. Walk up two flights of stairs, walk down.
  3. Walk up three flights of stairs, walk down.
  4. Walk up four flights of stairs, walk down.
  5. Walk up five flights of stairs, walk down.
  6. Start back down with four flights, three, two, then one.

If you love a challenge:

Intensity level: intermediate

To make your workout harder, run the stairs while wearing a backpack loaded with weights. You can also fill your backpack with water bottles or books as a substitute. But don’t hold hand weights—Cohen says you should keep your hands free in case you need to grab the railing.

  1. Run up one flight of stairs, run down.
  2. Run up two flights of stairs, run down.
  3. Run up three flights of stairs, run down.
  4. Run up four flights of stairs, run down.
  5. Run up five flights of stairs, run down.
  6. Start back down with four flights, three, two, then one.
  7. Repeat the entire workout again to have run over a mile.

If you’re feeling super confident:

Intensity level: advanced

Instead of just running the stairs, this intense version adds jumps into the mix. “This will add some explosive movements and also jack up your heart rate for a cardio boost,” says Cohen.

  1. Walk up one flight of stairs, walk down.
  2. Jump up one flight of stairs, run down.
  3. Repeat, alternating walking a flight and jumping a flight.
  4. Complete a total of 25 flights of stairs up and down—more if you desire.

End your workout with this cool-down stretch:

This is the key to making your indoor at-home workouts not boring. Then do one of these online workouts at home to ease social distancing.

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