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Take the Stairs: An 'Exercise Snack' Can Do Wonders for Your Heart and Lungs
  • Robert Preidt
  • Posted January 23, 2019

Take the Stairs: An 'Exercise Snack' Can Do Wonders for Your Heart and Lungs

Just a few exercise breaks -- or "snacks" -- a day can provide significant benefits, a new study says.

Specifically, it found that short sessions of intense stair climbing spaced throughout the day can improve heart and lung (cardiorespiratory) fitness.

"The findings make it even easier for people to incorporate 'exercise snacks' into their day," said study senior author Martin Gibala. He's a professor of kinesiology at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.

"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," Gibala said in a university news release.

Other studies have found that short bouts of vigorous exercise -- sprint interval training (SIT) -- are beneficial when done in a single 10-minute session, with a brief recovery period between intense bursts of activity.

In this study, researchers wanted to find out if bouts of intense stair climbing spread throughout the day would improve cardiorespiratory fitness.

For the research, sedentary young adults were divided into two groups of 12 people each. One group vigorously climbed three flights of stairs three times a day, with one to four hours between climbs. They did this three times a week over six weeks.

The other group did not exercise and served as the control.

"We know that sprint interval training works, but we were a bit surprised to see that the stair snacking approach was also effective," said study co-author Jonathan Little. He's an assistant professor of health and exercise science at the University of British Columbia's Okanagan campus in Kelowna.

"Vigorously climbing a few flights of stairs on your coffee or bathroom break during the day seems to be enough to boost fitness in people who are otherwise sedentary," Little said.

Along with having better heart and lung fitness, the stair climbers were stronger and generated more power during a cycling test than those in the control group, the study found.

The findings were published online Jan. 16 in the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism.

More information

The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute offers a guide to physical activity.

SOURCE: McMaster University, news release, Jan. 18, 2019
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