Running stairs isn't really the most fun you can have, but damned if it doesn’t marshal up a fast sweat and quickly turn your legs to jelly—assuming you're busting your ass, wrestling practice style, and not just plodding along like the slugs stuck on the gym StairMaster.
Exercise scientists at McMaster University in Canada recently put the stairs to the test in a study to find out how much work you need to put into climbing them to get a good health benefit. The researchers had two phases in their study, each one only requiring 10 minutes from warm up to cool down and occurring three times a week for six weeks.
In the first trial, subjects either went all-out on a StairMaster or on the stationary bike for three sessions of 20 seconds each. In the second experiment, subjects attacked either one or two flights of stairs in the same manner, but for three 60-second periods. Both protocols increased peak oxygen uptake, by 12% in the first phase, and by 7% in the second, indicating that brief and intense stair climbing improved cardiovascular fitness in only a 30-minute time commitment each week.
“Stair climbing is a form of exercise anyone can do in their own home, after work, or during the lunch hour,” said Martin Gibala, Ph.D., study author and professor of kinesiology at McMaster. "Interval training offers a convenient way to fit exercise into your life, rather than having to structure your life around exercise."
So no more excuses to get your ass in gear—retake control of the StairMaster from the lazy piles of flab at your gym, or find a close set of actual stairs and assault them with a vengeance for only 10 minutes, three times a week. Or check out these hot HIIT workouts for an even better, more intense workout guaranteed to get your heart (and legs) stronger. Your old wrestling coach would be proud.