Want a Great Office Workout? Try Stair Climbing

Looking for ways to burn a few extra calories, build your strength, and tone your rear end on your lunch break? Stair climbing is an excellent office workout for almost everyone, no matter what your fitness level. 

Why Hit the Stairs for Your Office Workout

We’ll get to the many health benefits of stair-climbing here in a minute. But first, let’s talk about why you should add any kind of movement to your workday routine if you work a desk job. The reason is simple: Spending eight hours sitting in front of a computer puts your health at risk. 

According to a 2022 article from The Mayo Clinic, when researchers analyzed 13 studies of sitting time and activity levels they discovered that “those who sat for more than eight hours a day with no physical activity had a risk of dying similar to that posed by obesity and smoking.” 

The Mayo Clinic recommends you take a break from sitting every 30 minutes for the sake of your health. You can walk around the office, stand while you make a phone call, or take a few laps up and down the stairs. Any movement is better than nothing, but stair climbing is a particularly great option to boost your fitness and get your blood flowing again after a period of sitting down. 

You can use the stairs for moderate exercise or a full-fledged, high-energy office workout. It’s free, easy, and highly effective.

The Health Benefits of Stair Climbing

Moving your body up a flight of stairs works your leg and buttock muscles. Some personal trainers even say stair climbing builds more muscle than running! It’s excellent for balance, strength, and elevating the heart rate. You can also get a good office workout going downstairs because your quadriceps have to work hard to support you. 

office workout on the stairsUsing the stairs casually, as an alternative to the elevator or escalator, can burn about 640 calories per hour (cal/hr) for a 140-pound person. Doing a stair workout, which can involve running upstairs, taking stairs two at a time, and other strenuous exercises, burns about 950 cal/hr for someone of the same weight. 

For comparison, moderate cycling, skiing, swimming, and fast walking are all on par with casual stair climbing. Fast running and competitive singles tennis are on par with a stair workout.

Of course, most of us are not inclined to spend an hour on the stairs, but even short bursts can contribute to your fitness and help shrink your waistline. A 15-minute stair climb on your lunch break will burn just as many calories as a 30-minute run on flat ground, with less impact on your joints. 

Our Best Stair Workout Tips

If you want to try a more serious office workout on the stairs, treat it like a run. Bring a bottle of water along so you can stay hydrated, and wear supportive athletic shoes to protect your feet. Do a few minutes of quadriceps and calf stretches, then walk up and down one flight to warm up. After that, pace yourself — start by running a flight, then walking the next. 

Alternatively, you can create sets: Start by running up one floor and walking back down. After a minute’s rest, repeat the exercise. Over time, you’ll be able to build up to more flights per set and increase the intensity of your workout. 

If you work out on your office stairs, remember that they’re not your personal gym — they’re a public space! Follow these four tips to keep yourself safe. 

  1. Stay alert when rounding corners. office workout fitness tips
  2. Watch and listen for others using the stairs, and for doors opening. 
  3. If you want to listen to music during your stair workout, use just one earbud so you can hear other people headed your way. 
  4. Never run down the stairs, which can easily lead to falls. 

These tips also apply to working out on the stairs in other public places, like parking garages and apartment buildings. 

If stair climbing becomes your office workout of choice, consider joining one of the competitive stair-climbing races held in buildings around the world. In San Francisco, for example, the American Lung Association’s Fight for Air Climb is a great option. The race has been around for almost 20 years. 

After your first stair-climbing success, you might just catch yourself humming Led Zepplin’s “Stairway to Heaven” as you exercise. 

Want more tips for staying healthy at work? Check out our blog on the best healthy office snacks.

Note: Stair climbing is not recommended for people with knee injuries or high blood pressure (untreated). Always check with your doctor before beginning a new exercise program.

This blog was originally written by and published on Feb. 24, 2010. It was updated by Lex Flamm on Dec. 8, 2023.

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