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New Study Shows Choosing Stairs Over Lifts Could Prolong Your Life

Jun 06, 2024 10:00AM ● By Gift Joe

Black man carrying coffee and smartphone up the office stairs. Image by freepik

When you get to a building with stairs and an elevator, which do you go for? I'm pretty sure you would head straight for the elevator. But, do you know those steps you often shun could be your secret weapon to a healthier lifestyle?

Climbing stairs is associated with a longer life, according to research presented on April 26, 2024, at ESC Preventive Cardiology 2024, a scientific congress of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC).

“If you have the choice of taking the stairs or the lift, go for the stairs as it will help your heart,” said study author Dr. Sophie Paddock of the University of East Anglia and Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital Foundation Trust, Norwich, UK.

The study investigated whether climbing stairs, as a form of physical activity, could play a role in reducing the risks of cardiovascular disease and premature death. A meta-analysis was conducted after collecting the best available evidence on the topic. Dr. Paddock and her colleagues examined nine studies with 480,479 participants in the final analysis. Those studied included both healthy participants and those with a previous history of heart attack or peripheral arterial disease, ranging in age from mid-30s to mid-80s. More than half (53%) were women.

The researchers reported that people in the habit of climbing stairs had a 39% lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease and a lower overall risk of developing cardiovascular disease, suffering a heart attack, heart failure, or having a stroke. They also had a 24% reduced risk of dying from any cause compared to those who did not climb stairs.

“Based on these results, we would encourage people to incorporate stair climbing into their day-to-day lives. Our study suggested that the more stairs climbed, the greater the benefits – but this needs to be confirmed. So, whether at work, home, or elsewhere, take the stairs,” Paddock added.

How Climbing Stairs Benefits Your Health

We all know the struggle of having to choose between an elevator with little or no stress and the stairs which requires some effort. Believe it or not, those steps you grudgingly eye while waiting for the elevator could be a powerful investment in your health. Here’s why taking the stairs instead of the lift is the ultimate game-changer you didn’t know you needed.

Cardiovascular Health

Reduced risk of heart disease: A recent study found that climbing more than five flights of stairs (approximately 50 steps) daily can reduce the.

Improved heart health: Studies have found that climbing stairs can lower your risk of risk of cardiovascular diseases, including stroke, heart attacks, and blood clots. Every step you take is like a mini health insurance policy for your heart.

Strengthened heart muscle: Sure, climbing stairs gets your heart pumping which helps strengthen the heart muscle.

Effects on blood pressure and cholesterol levels: Physical activity has been shown to reduce blood pressure and improve cholesterol levels. If you want better cholesterol levels, imbibe the habit of using stairs instead of lifts.

Balance and Coordination

Improved balance: Climbing stairs is a repetitive activity that requires balance and coordination, engaging your core and stabilizing muscles. Performing this routine regularly can reduce your risk of falls and enhance overall agility.

Increased endurance: This simple activity improves endurance and stamina.

Strengthens leg muscles: Every step you take engages multiple muscle groups, thereby toning and strengthening your legs, glutes, and core muscles.

General Fitness

Burns a lot of calories: Climbing stairs is an effective way to burn calories, making it beneficial for weight management. According to Obesity, stair climbing burns more calories than jogging.


Reduced mortality risk: According to a recent study, stair climbers have a 39% lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease compared to those who don’t use stairs.

Black man tying shoes while sitting on the stairs. Image by freepik

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Implications for Public Health and Everyday Lifestyle Choices

This simple activity which is often overlooked in favor of elevators and escalators offers substantial benefits for public health, and can significantly influence our everyday lifestyle choices. Incorporating stair climbing into daily routines can benefit individuals and communities alike. From employers to urban planners, everyone has a role to play.

Employers can make stair climbing a fun and rewarding activity by organizing engaging stair challenges that employees can participate in. They can also motivate employees to ditch the elevator with creative signage. This can lead to healthier, more productive employees.

Public buildings and workplaces can be part of the solution by promoting the use of stairs, making them more appealing, and providing easy ways for individuals to increase their daily activity levels. Also, public health initiatives that encourage stair use can lead to healthier populations and decreased healthcare costs associated with cardiovascular diseases.

Urban planners and architects can design buildings and public spaces that encourage stair use. Attractive and well-maintained staircases can make choosing the stairs an appealing option.

Practical Tips for Climbing Your Way to Better Health

Integrating stair climbing into one’s daily routine can help keep the mind sharp and improve concentration and memory. Here are a few ways to do so:

Start gradually: If you're not used to climbing stairs regularly, start slowly with a few flights and gradually increase the number as you get used to it.

Choose stairs over elevators: At work, train stations, shopping malls, or other places, consciously choose the stairs over escalators whenever possible.

Break it up throughout the day: You can climb a few in the morning when you arrive at work, and another few before heading home. You don’t have to climb all the stairs at once.

Set goals: Just like you set walking targets, you can aim to climb a certain number of flights per day.

An alternative to coffee: Instead of grabbing another coffee to fight afternoon fatigue, take a few flights of stairs to get your blood pumping and refresh your mind.

Single-leg balance, one of the alternatives to taking the stairs. Photo by Andrea Piacquadio

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If climbing stairs isn't feasible due to mobility limitations or injuries, there are still plenty of effective exercises that offer similar benefits you can do at home. Here are some alternatives:

  • Sit-to-stand (Chair squats)

  • Wall sits

  • Stationary cycling

  • Single-leg balance

  • Heel raises

  • Assisted step-ups

So, the next time you're faced with the elevator button, take a deep breath, channel your inner Olympian, and face the stairs like the champion that you are. It’s a great way to combine fitness and productivity. While giving your body a workout, you can use the time to think through a work problem, thereby engaging your mind. Talk about a win-win!

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