Benefits of Stair Training

Running stairs benefits our entire body and is widely regarded as one of the most efficient and effective cardio and strength building workouts.

The benefits of stair training are numerous:

  • Builds leg and core muscles
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Promotes weight loss
  • Burns calories
  • Increases vertical jump
  • Increases speed and explosiveness
  • Increases agility and coordination
  • Boosts stamina and VO2 max
  • Enhances cardiovascular fitness
  • Strengthens bones
  • Targets fast twitch muscle fibers
  • Improves body tone and overall physique
  • Enables robust workouts in shorter periods of time
  • Provides excellent cross-training opportunities for a variety of sports
  • Core muscle development can help reduce back pain
  • Stair-climbing workouts can help prevent injury by facilitating exercise motion in all directions

Read below to learn more about some of these benefits in greater detail:

General Fitness

Stair climbing enhances your cardiovascular fitness. According to a 2000 study of sedentary young women in the journal Preventative Medicine, a short-term stair-climbing workout provides considerable cardiovascular health benefits. Stair climbing also requires more effort than walking or running on flat ground.


Stair climbing requires significant energy and burns plenty of calories in a short period of time. Because of this, it is possible to achieve the benefits of a longer, more moderate workout in a shorter amount of time. Stair climbing requires no special equipment and can be performed by most exercisers, regardless of their fitness level.

Strength Development

During stair climbing, you must use your leg muscles to haul yourself up. You'll work your quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, calves, hip flexors and core body. To make the workout harder and to further train your legs, don't swing the arms or use the banister.

Cross Training Fitness Benefits

Because stair climbing challenges your aerobic and anaerobic systems, it can help runners, swimmers, cyclists and other competitive athletes improve their endurance and sprint performance. Cross training with stair climbing also helps combat boredom by introducing variation into your routine. If you're using stair climbing as a primary cardio and leg workout, try cross training with strength training exercises for the upper body. (Note: Climbing stairs doesn't work arm muscles such as biceps, triceps and deltoids. In between sets of stairs, ProStairs users can utilize the optional components on the side and back of the equipment to perform strength exercises such push-ups and tricep dips, while adding in additional abdominal exercises as needed).

Cardiovascular Health

Climbing stairs is a cardiovascular exercise, meaning it works your heart, lungs and circulatory system. Cardiovascular fitness is closely linked to cardiovascular health, so regular stair climbing workouts may reduce your chances of suffering coronary heart disease, strokes, heart attacks and high blood pressure. (If you have a history of cardiovascular illness, consult your doctor before starting a new exercise routine.)

Better Than Hills

Stairs are much steeper than most hills: Indoor stairs have a roughly 65 percent grade, while Boston's Heartbreak Hill, by comparison, is just 4.5 percent. That's why climbing them accelerates your heart rate so rapidly and makes you breathe faster to take in more oxygen. This, in turn, improves your VO2 max, which is the maximum amount of oxygen you can utilize during intense exercise. A greater VO2 max means you can run harder and for longer durations. A study in The British Journal of Sports Medicine found that short bouts of stair-climbing five days a week for eight weeks improved VO2 max by 17 percent among young women.

Terrific Thighs and Butt

Climbing stairs provides your entire lower body with an effective workout. Take two steps at a time and the increased intensity will really kick your workout up a notch. Stair climbing works all of your major lower-body muscles including glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps and calves. Strengthened gluteal muscles have the added benefit of making your butt look toned and firm.

Bulk Up Your Bones

Stair climbing is a weight-bearing exercise and as such will strengthen your bones. Bone density tends to decline with age and can lead to osteoporosis, a condition characterized by weak bones prone to fracture. Climbing stairs means the bones of your lower body must work to support your weight, and that extra load will trigger an increase in bone-building cell activity.

Weight Control

Climbing stairs, either for exercise or simply because you decide to skip the elevator, can help you control your weight by burning more calories. For a 120-lb person, stair climbing burns around 146 calories per 20-minute session. Studies by scientists at the University of Roehampton in England found that climbing five flights of stairs, equal to an ascent of around 16.4 yards or 15 meters, five times a week burned an average of 302 calories. They recommend taking one step at a time rather than two because doing so uses more energy as it takes longer to climb each flight. Making stair climbing a regular part of your day helps make controlling your weight easier.

Walking up Stairs is a Great Exercise

Walking stairs provides an efficient low-impact cardiovascular workout that also builds strength in your lower body. The vertical nature of stairs presents a unique challenge for the quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes. Most exercise and athletic activity consists of moving forward or laterally, such as jogging, walking and cycling, whereas the upward motion used to climb stairs requires your body to move in an alternative direction. Working your muscles from different angles can help you to maximize muscle growth. Walking stairs can burn 472 calories per hour for someone weighing 130 pounds and up to 690 calories per hour if you weigh 190 pounds, according to State of Wisconsin’s Department of Health and Family Services. That's comparable to running at the pace of 5 mph, playing in a basketball game, or bicycling at a moderate speed of 12 to 13 mph.

Back Pain

Stair training can help reduce back pain (even particularly difficult lower back pain). It strengthens the muscles around the lower back and the abdomen, which helps with long-term back pain that is becoming increasingly prevalent amongst athletes who participate in all major sports.

Preventing Injuries

Most people exercise in a straight-line forward or what experts call the sagital plane. Most people have plenty of strength in this plane. It's in the side to side (frontal plane) and the rotational (transverse plane) that people are generally weakest in. It's no coincidence, therefore, that injuries occur in these planes. Most ankle injuries occur in the frontal plane and many knee injuries occur in the transverse plane. Stair climbing lends itself very well to doing lunges in all planes of motion and can help someone improve their strength in all planes of motion to balance out their strengths and weaknesses.

Key Terms

  • Plyometrics: Exercises in which muscles exert maximum force in short intervals of time, with the goal of increasing power (speed-strength).
  • Anaerobic Exercise: Short-lasting, high-intensity activity, where your body's demand for oxygen exceeds the oxygen supply available.
  • Aerobic Exercise: Exercises that require pumping of oxygenated blood by the heart to deliver oxygen to working muscles. Also known as “cardio.”
  • VO2 Max: Maximal oxygen uptake, measured by the amount of oxygen your body is capable of utilizing in one minute. As a measurement of the capacity for aerobic work, it can predict potential for endurance.
  • Concentric: Describes movements in which muscle tension is stronger than the load on the muscles, and the muscles therefore shorten as they contract.
  • Eccentric: Describes movements in the load on the muscles is greater than muscle tension, and the muscles therefore lengthen as they contract.
  • DOMS: Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. The next-day "sore" feeling that results from eccentric (muscle lengthening) exercises.
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