Many of us spend hours sitting at a desk everyday. In fact, Americans spend an estimated 31 percent of their time at work, and those employed in sedentary occupations spend approximately 11 hours per day inactive. Prolonged periods of inactivity at work leave little time to achieve recommended levels of physical activity. This sedentary life contributes to a host of health problems, not the least of which is heart disease.
One of the best ways to combat the ills of sitting all day is to slowly integrate a stair climbing program into your daily routine. You don’t have to be a super-star athlete to enjoy the health benefits of stair climbing, and just a little stair climbing can go a long way to improve your heart-health.
Here are some tips that I recommend on how to get started, and how to use stair climbing to propel you to a healthier lifestyle.
1) Climb slowly (at first).
Start by climbing just a few flights, moving slowly. Every few days, increase the number of flights and the speed. You may start out just climbing the three flights to your office in the morning, move on to a moderate-paced 15 minutes at lunch time and then graduate to a 30-minute climb at the end of your work day. In addition to improving your overall fitness and heart health, stair climbing is a great way to keep the stress of the workday in check.
2) Climb warmed up.
Be sure to stretch your muscles to warm up before you begin, and again after you are done to cool down. This is especially important as you increase intensity. Be sure to focus especially on your quads, hamstrings and gluteal muscles. Proper stretching will help prevent injury.
3) Climb safely.
Make sure the stairs you choose to climb are safe. Choose stairs that are in good repair to avoid any falls that uneven or broken stairs might cause. Be sure that the stairwell is secure and not isolated. Encourage a friend or co-worker to accompany you. There is safety in numbers and you’ll be helping their heart health, too!
4) Climb like a pro, even if you aren’t one.
Wear good, supportive sneakers. Don’t hold the handrails! (That’s cheating!)
Use proper stair climbing technique: Use the hip flexor to raise your leg, with the foot centered over the step. Let the heel touch down in the center of the stair, then use hamstrings, quadriceps and gluteal muscles to propel you upward. Maximize the impact of the exercise by using your core, upper back and arms to help drive you forward.
5) Climb everywhere!
Once you’ve conquered your office stairs, challenge yourself: Find a bigger office building, and scale those stairs. Try a mountain hike or find a stadium, and see how many steps you can conquer.
Every journey starts with a single step—keep telling yourself you can do it, and you will see positive health results from your stair climbing efforts.
Whether you are a beginner or advanced climber check out Climb Corps at Brigham and Women’s Hospital for more details on the upcoming ClimbAmerica! event on Saturday, June 7th, which is the first stair climbing event at Fenway Park. You can test out your new-found stair climbing skills while helping to raise funds and awareness for cardiovascular disease.