Tag Archives: Saint Helena Island

Effects of stair-climbing on running performance


Jacob’s Ladder, on Saint Helena Island is one of the longest staircases in the world. It is made up of 699 steps and ascends 183 metres (600 ft). Imagine going up these stairs every day. Source, Wikipedia.

Isn’t it fun running up long staircases, and being out of breath when you reach the top? It’s such a great way to get some quick vigorous exercise in office buildings, shopping malls, or wherever there are stairs. I do it whenever I can, and I encourage everyone to take the stairs wherever you see them.

The stairs in the above photo remind me of the classic Led Zeppelin song “Stairway to Heaven“, because of how far up that staircase goes. But now let’s get down to business: how good of an exercise is stair-climbing compared to running, and can it improve running performance? According to California State University, Northridge, in Effects of stair-climbing vs run training on treadmill and track running performance:

Physically active college age women were evaluated to determine the effects of 9 wk of stair-climbing (Stairmaster Gauntlet) vs run training on 2414-m run time and treadmill measured aerobic capacity (VO2max) and submaximal physiological parameters. Subjects were randomly assigned to a stair-climbing (STAIR N = 11) (43.8 +/- 1.5 ml.kg-1.min-1) (mean +/- SEM) or run training (RUN N = 12) (44.2 +/- 1.8) group, training 4 d.wk-1 at 70-80% of maximum heart rate (MHR) for 30 min progressing to 85-90% MHR for 45 min. The STAIR group significantly increased (P < 0.01) their VO2max by 12% and decreased (P < 0.01) their 2414-m run time of 12.8 min by 8%. The RUN group increased (P < 0.01) their VO2max 16% and decreased run time (P < 0.01) 11% from 13.1 min. Submaximal treadmill runs at the same speed and grade demonstrated significant decreases in %VO2max and % MHR (P < 0.01) for both groups. The data support the use of stair-climbing exercise as an alternative mode to running with similar treadmill and running performance results subsequent to 9 wk of training.

Looks pretty good to me. I used to do a lot of indoor stair-climbing during the winter months as a substitute for outdoor running when there was too much snow on the ground. Once the snow melted, it felt like I didn’t miss a day of running. If there is any heavy snow this winter, I will do my best to run through it, since I prefer outdoor to indoor exercise, even in the freezing cold. I will still always use the stairs instead of the elevator whenever possible.

Related articles:

Quick Stair Workout – W1D5