Ask the Personal Trainer: Stair Climbing vs. Running and Walking

Stair climbing vs. running and walking
TrainerAsk Personal Trainer

Q: How does stair climbing compare to running and walking?

A: The vertical movement associated with stair climbing is what separates it from running and walking. You place higher demands on your lower body muscles by virtue of lifting your body weight upward against gravity. Furthermore, your muscles must balance and stabilize during both the climbing and lowering phase.

Running and walking, on the other hand, are also very effective for burning calories, toning your muscles, and activating your cardiovascular system. But unlike stair climbing, you minimize or eliminate the vertical component. Running has a small upward movement and so burns slightly more calories than walking (which has no upward movement).

Even though the calorie burning associated with stair climbing is slightly higher, it really depends on how long you do it and at what intensity. If you're new to exercise, I suggest you ease into stair climbing. Start off with 10 minutes at a slow to moderate pace three times per week and see how your body responds. Then build up from there. Be sure to pay attention to any hip, knee, or ankle pain.

That said, let me add that no single exercise is "better" than another. The best exercise is the one you enjoy and to which you will remain loyal. After all, long-lasting weight loss is a result of consistency!

In this Q&A series, William Sukala, MS, CSCS, answers questions about fitness and exercise. Read more articles from our personal trainer.

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