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Gretchen Reynolds will be back next week.

For 30 years, every winter, I took an unconventional, low-tech approach to staying fit. From November to February, I climbed the stairs of his 22-story apartment in New York. in short, climbed.

Back and forth, 3, 4, 5, and even 6 round trips in total. Each outing lasted at least 30 minutes. All the time, I would walk and listen to music rather than run, listen to music that was funky enough, and be sweaty and out of breath. It kept me healthy and happy.

Climbing the stairs in an apartment or office building rarely comes to mind as a routine exercise. But it should. Numerous studies have shown that climbing stairs, even in brief but intense bouts, strengthens muscles, boosts energy, and improves overall cardiorespiratory fitness. , may further reduce the risk of a combination of diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity.

After observing 52 sedentary women aged 18 to 45, researchers at the University of Birmingham, UK, found that “climbing at home was at least as effective as comparable protocols at the gym.” concluded. Gym — 5 days a week, from 2 times a day she climbs up to 5 times, over 8 weeks. “Climbing stairs at home is a low-cost and reduced health risk for individuals.”

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Why Stairs Are Good Training

Another study, published in the Journal of Aging and Physical Activity, identified stair climbing as an “accessible and time-efficient form of exercise” and a “promising approach” for improving cognitive performance, especially in older adults. called an intervention strategy.

As it happens, about 39 million Americans live in apartment complexes, many of which are high-rise buildings with many stairs (according to the National Apartment Association). Office buildings and shopping malls may also have stairs. Tower running, which involves running up the stairs of skyscrapers, is becoming recognized as an organized competitive sport.

Alvin Morton, an assistant professor of exercise and rehabilitation science at Merrimack College in North Andover, Massachusetts, donned a weighted vest to enhance exercise and clipped up and down the stairs of his apartment for 20 minutes.

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“It’s considered at least moderate activity,” says Morton, a member of the American College of Sports Medicine’s Fitness Index Advisory Board. “And your apartment building has stairs.

Every time you step up, you’re exercising a lot of your leg muscles. In the process, you defy gravity and lift your entire body weight by as much as 10 inches. Your muscles need to generate enough power to do so, especially if you’re moving at a blistering pace. This is scientifically known as vertical displacement and is considered a form of resistance training.

Stair climbing in routine or naturalistic settings as an exercise is growing in popularity, says Melissa Wehnert-Lottie, professor and director of the Exercise Science Program at Westfield State University in Westfield, Massachusetts. said to be sexual. To see how they fared in a home environment,” she says.

The winter stair climbing training was very rewarding. I was able to work out in absolute privacy without having to brave the cold outside, much less pay an annual gym membership.

Year after year and decades, our commitment to stairs has paid off. Improved speed, strength, endurance and especially footwork for playing basketball and tennis in the warmer months.No need to stick with StairMaster. (Full disclosure: The stair-climbing adventure ended last year when we moved into a warm-climate one-story house.)

How to start a stair climbing regimen

If you decide to turn your stairs into a home gym, experts recommend taking it easy at first.

Start with only a few floors per outing, one step at a time at a slow tempo. Stand straight, pull your shoulders back, and tuck your chin. Because it is easy to fall down when tired. Incorporate breaks. If you’re into metrics, you can use apps like StepJockey, Stairforce, and StairClimbs to track how many floors you climb in a given stint.

If you do it for a long time (eg 15 minutes or more), do it slowly. But if you choose to go fast, keep it brief. wave your arms Once you get the hang of it, you can increase the difficulty and go faster and longer. You can also strap it to your backpack or wrist weights.

“Climbing stairs is great exercise for anyone of any age who already has a balanced workout,” says Roti. “There are no specific recommendations regarding the number of stairs to climb.”

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As for the risk of falling on stairs, Morton says, “it’s the same as someone with good balance walking on level ground.” “However, people who are out of balance due to medical conditions, medications, etc. should do activities that allow them to sit, such as riding a bicycle while sitting.”

But to be safe, make sure the stairs you walk on are well lit and wear shoes with reliable traction. Note that the faster you step on your foot, the more likely you are to trip, especially during the descent. If you feel wobbly, hold on to the railing to help you balance. Finally, consider walking with a partner or group.

There is one final issue to consider if you decide to go it alone.

For decades, I feared my unsuspecting neighbors would watch out for strangers sweating, gasping and freaking out in the stairwell. So be ready to explain your existence before you climb the stairs.

“You’re perfectly safe,” assures fellow travelers who run into me. “Just get a little exercise here.”

Have a fitness question? e-mail I may answer your question in a future column.

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