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  • New research shows climbing stairs is linked to improved heart health and a reduced risk of all-cause mortality.
  • Experts recommend regular stair climbing for overall health, aiming for three to six flights of stairs daily.
  • To incorporate more stair climbing into your health and fitness routine, take the stairs whenever possible.

The benefits of exercise are well-known, from better heart health and lower blood pressure to improved mood.

There are many ways to be active on a regular basis, such as taking the stairs. According to the authors of a new study, climbing stairs is associated with improved heart health and longevity.

“One of the main motivators behind this study was that I was often seeing people take the lifts at work rather than taking the stairs — even medical students 10 years younger than myself,” Sophie Paddock, MD, of the University of East Anglia and Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital Foundation Trust, in the United Kingdom, told Healthline.

“I’d like to think that we can now use the results of this study to encourage people to incorporate more physical activity into their daily lives. We hope that our research will influence policy makers and health care professionals to promote physical activity and stair climbing.”

The research is being presented at the European Society of Cardiology’s Preventive Cardiology conference April 25–27 in Athens, Greece. The study has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.

For this study, researchers conducted a meta-analysis, examining nine studies with 480,479 participants.

Participants included healthy adults ages 35 to 84 and adults with a prior history of heart attack or peripheral arterial disease.

Following the analysis, researchers found that stair climbing was linked to a 24% reduced risk of death from any cause and a 39% lower risk of death from heart disease.

Climbing stairs was also associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular events, such as heart attack, heart failure, and stroke.

According to the authors, the next steps for the research will be to objectively evaluate the optimal number of stairs people should be climbing each day and at what intensity.

“The current research is heavily reliant on patients recalling their day-to-day activities, which can lead to bias,” Paddock explained.

John Higgins MD, a sports cardiologist at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth in Houston, not involved in the study, told Healthline exercise strengthens the heart muscle and improves vascular function, among other positive effects, such as:

Cardiovascular disease affects the heart and blood vessels. Aerobic exercises such as walking, running, biking, and swimming can help strengthen the heart and improve its ability to function.

“Aerobic exercise can help the heart pump blood more efficiently, reducing the risk of heart failure,” Benjamin Boudreaux, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow in Columbia’s Center for Behavioral Cardiovascular Health, told Healthline. Boudreaux was not involved in the study.

“Climbing stairs is a form of aerobic exercise, which provides numerous heart health benefits,” Boudreaux noted.

Regular aerobic exercise helps lower blood pressure over a 24-hour period, which increases flexibility in the blood vessels and reduces the risk of high blood pressure (hypertension), Boudreaux explained.

Exercise also increases levels of “good” HDL cholesterol, he said, which helps reduce “bad” LDL cholesterol and the risk of atherosclerosis, he said.

In addition, Boudreaux noted that exercise helps regulate blood sugar and improve insulin sensitivity, which helps reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and related blood vessel damage.

The new study did not make a specific recommendation for stair climbing frequency.

According to experts interviewed for this article, aiming for three to six flights of stairs per day (assuming each flight is 10 to 15 stairs) is a good goal for overall health.

A 2023 study suggests climbing more than five flights of stairs (or 50 stair steps) daily may reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases, such as stroke, heart attacks, and blood clots.

“When you increase your heart rate through stair climbing, it helps strengthen the heart muscle and makes it more efficient at pumping blood, so the heart works less now to complete its daily mission of pumping blood packed with nutrients and oxygen throughout your body,” Higgins explained.

Boudreaux recommended climbing a minimum of at least one flight of stairs daily.

“Climbing stairs is considered to be a vigorous physical activity. The amount of time doing this activity may largely depend on the individual’s motive (it could be for fitness or staying active throughout the day),” he said.

Even if you don’t have stairs in your home, there are plenty of ways to incorporate more stair climbing into your daily life.

For instance, if you work in an office or other type of building with multiple floors, you can take the stairs instead of the elevator.

Other buildings, such as hotels, malls, airports, doctor’s offices, and hospitals, have stairwells that are typically available for public use.

“You are more likely to get to your destination faster by climbing a few flights of stairs than being in an elevator that may stop multiple times. At the airport, taking the stairs is a good way to get your legs moving before sitting during a flight,” Boudreaux said.

To get the most out of stair climbing, experts recommend picking up the pace to strengthen your cardiorespiratory fitness. You could also try the stair climbing machine at the gym if you belong to one, or invest in a sturdy fitness step and perform step-ups at home.

Climbing stairs is linked to improved heart health and longevity, according to new research. Experts advise climbing stairs each day, aiming for three to six flights.

To incorporate more stair climbing into your day, take the stairs whenever possible, whether at the office or other public venues, use a stair climber at the gym, or perform step-ups on a fitness step at home.