Fitness Tips

3 Stair Workouts To Get Your Heart Rate Up and Improve Your Cardiovascular Fitness Over Time

Kells McPhillips

I’m pretty sure stair workouts weren’t what Miley Cyrus was talking about when she belted the lyrics “It’s the climb” back in 2009, but in mid-2020, when my pandemic-induced stir-craziness hit at an all-time high, I Googled “stairs near me,” threw on a pair of leggings, and bolted out the door. Flash forward thirty minutes, and I was gasping from a dozen vertical laps. Needless to say, if you’re on the market for a cardiovascular workout, you too may benefit from locating your local stairs.

There’s a reason walking up a flight of stairs makes your heart race, Arnold Meshkov, MD, a board-certified cardiologist based in Philadelphia previously told Well+Good. "Any kind of vigorous activity, like climbing up stairs, is going to cause a demand of blood and oxygen to your extremities," he says. "And the body deals with that by increasing the output of [the blood the heart pumps] and supplying more blood and oxygen than would be required at rest." Put simply: You’re making your body work a little harder—and that extra effort comes with a host of benefits.

Not only does stair-walking strengthen your posterior chain (think: calves, hamstrings, and glutes), it also improves your cardiovascular health. Over time, you can start to notice that doing these exercises is easier not just because your muscles are getting stronger, but also because your lungs—or VO2 max, the given amount of oxygen that your lungs can utilize during physical activity—is also growing. Many watches keep track of this metric, so that you can see how your fitness is moving along in all regards.

Whether you repurpose the stairs of your New York City walk-up or seek out your local staircase (anything will do, really), get ready to squeeze in a solid workout—no equipment required.

1. 10-minute wtaircase HIIT workout

Don’t expect to just walk up and down the stairs in this workout. This video leads you through toe-taps, elevated plank jacks, and more—all sprinkled in with some hardcore stair sprints. Let the sweating begin.

2. Snappy 20-minute stair workout

This simple (but not easy) ladder workout guides you through an ever-more-challenging workout as the clock ticks on. You’ll run up 25 stairs, then walk down. 50 stairs, then walk back down. 75 stairs, then walk back down. Repeat until you hit 20 minutes. For an extra challenge, try skipping a step.

3. 20-minute advanced stair workout

If you’re an old pro at stair workouts (um, why isn’t this an Olympic event yet), this is the stair workout for you. This workout will take you through stair push-ups, jump squats, and even some ballerina-esque twirls.

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