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Stepping up to fitness

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One thing people often get wrong about fitness is that they believe they need dozens of pieces of equipment to get a good workout.

In fact, one of the most basic and effective pieces of training equipment is found in virtually every home in the land – a set of stairs.

Here are some benefits of using stairs or steps as a workout tool.

 

Stair training gets your heart rate up, fast

Walking, jogging, and running are all perfectly good ways of getting a decent cardiovascular workout. 

Climbing a flight of stairs, or using a stair climber machine (did I mention that many Pure Gym locations have those available?) is just a more efficient way of getting the job done, however.

The key is in the added resistance of the climbing motion, which causes you to work against gravity by “pushing” your body up, one leg at a time, against its own weight. At the same time, the fuller range of motion in the joints of the lower body forces your muscles to exert themselves more to complete the movement.

In other words, walking or running up a flight of stairs is more strenuous than walking or running along a flat road.

One benefit of this extra strain is that you’ll be able to burn more calories and get your heart rate up in less time when using a stair climber than when using a treadmill.

Mayoclinic.com suggests at least twice as many more calories are burned on a stair climber as on a conventional walk over any given period, with a 165lb individual burning 657 calories per hour on a stair climber, and 314 on a 3.5mph walk.[1]

 

You can work your whole lower body with stairs

The motion of walking up a flight of stairs activates just about all the muscles in the lower body, meaning that stair-based workouts can be a great addition to your leg training regimen, helping to build strength and endurance while improving cardiovascular fitness.

Specifically, when climbing stairs, you engage your gluteus maximus, hamstrings, quadriceps, and, to a lesser degree, your abs.

Depending on how you choose to train using the stairs, the entire workout can also be very low-impact, meaning that your joints withstand less abuse than they would when going for a jog.

 

With stairs you can train for strength, power, or endurance

One of the great thing about training with stairs is that you can use them for a variety of different exercises, targeted either at explosive power, intense cardio work, or lower body strength building.

Just be careful about what you’re doing, and keep the risks in mind before getting started.

To use stairs to do an HIIT workout which will leave you gasping for air, stand at the foot of the flight and step up and down from the first (or second) step as quickly as you can, until you’re too exhausted to continue. At this point, you should continue the exercise at a slow pace until you regain your breath, then repeat the “sprint.”

To use stairs to work on developing explosive power, stand at the base of the stairs, squat, and jump with both feet at once to the highest step you can reach in a single bound. Then, walk back down again and repeat. This is essentially using your stairs to do a “box jump.” Take special care when performing this exercise, as there’s always the risk of you putting a foot wrong or misjudging your jump, and slipping. Do this exercise barefoot, or wearing shoes with good grip.

To use stairs to do a targeted strength workout for the lower body, do “stair lunges,” by climbing several steps at once and going into a deep lunge with each step. The deeper the lunge, the greater the distance between the legs and the more reps you do, the more you will exhaust and work your muscles.

 

[1] http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/weight-loss/in-depth/exercise/art-20050999?pg=2

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