A few minutes of stair climbing, at short intervals throughout the day, can improve cardiovascular health, according to new research from kinesiologists at McMaster University in the US.
The findings, which have been published in the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism, suggest that almost anyone can improve their fitness, anywhere, at any time.
Martin Gibala, the study’s senior author, said: ‘The findings make it even easier for people to incorporate ‘exercise snacks’ into their day. Those who work in office towers or live in apartment buildings can vigorously climb a few flights of stairs in the morning, at lunch, and in the evening and know they are getting an effective workout.’
Previous studies had shown that brief bouts of vigorous exercise, or sprint interval training, are effective when performed as a single session, with a few minutes of recovery between the intense bursts, requiring a total time commitment of 10 minutes or so.
For this study, researchers set out to determine if SIT exercise snacks, or vigorous bouts of stairclimbing performed as single sprints spread throughout the day would be sufficient enough to improve cardiorespiratory fitness, an important health marker linked to longevity and cardiovascular disease risk.
One group of sedentary young adults vigorously climbed a three-flight stairwell, three times per day, separated by one to four hours of recovery. They repeated the protocol three times each week over the course of six weeks. The researchers compared the change in their fitness to a control group which did not exercise.
In addition to being more fit, the stair climbers were also stronger compared to their sedentary counterparts at the end of the study, and generated more power during a maximal cycling test.