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More Reasons to Climb Stairs

by Jeanine Barone  

Besides its well-known fitness benefits, stair climbing (like all forms of aerobic exercise) can improve health in other ways.

  • Healthy blood vessels. In a study in Menopause in July 2018, 41 postmenopausal women with hypertension did either stair climbing (192 steps, two to five times a day, four days a week) or no exercise for 12 weeks. The stair group had significant reductions in blood pressure and arterial stiffness.
  • Diabetes. In a 2016 study in BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care, 16 older people with type 2 diabetes did three minutes of stair climbing one hour and two hours after eating a test meal. Their blood sugar was significantly reduced after stair climbing, compared to when they just rested for three hours after eating. Of course, other types of physical activity would probably have a similar effect.
  • Brain health. In a 2016 study in Neurobiology of Aging, researchers correlated lifetime physical activities and education level of 331 healthy people (ages 19 to 79) with brain volume as seen on MRI scans, which decreases with age. Besides higher level of education, higher amounts of daily stair climbing were associated with decreased “brain age.” This was an observational study, so it merely shows an association between stair climbing and brain health and does not establish causality.

This article first appeared in the UC Berkeley Wellness Letter.