Fitness training programs have to be practical and feel doable or they will not be consistent. We used to think that long, slow cardio was the ticket to good health. Then we added strength training to replenish muscle and burn more fat at rest. Lately, fitness training programs have focused on efficiency. We are all busy and we want fitness training programs that can be done quickly yet achieve optimal results.

Short Bouts of Stairclimbing Throughout the Day Can Boost Health

It just got harder to avoid exercise. According to new research from kinesiologists at McMaster University and UBC Okanagan, a few minutes of stair climbing, at short intervals throughout the day, can improve cardiovascular health.

The findings, published in the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism, suggest that virtually anyone can improve their fitness, anywhere, any time.

Previous studies had shown that brief bouts of vigorous exercise, or sprint interval training (SIT), are effective when performed as a single session, with a few minutes of recovery between the intense bursts, requiring a total time commitment of 10 minutes or so.

This is a Fitness Training Program for the Time-Pressed

For this study, researchers set out to determine if sprint interval training (SIT) exercise snacks, or vigorous bouts of stairclimbing performed as single sprints spread throughout the day would be sufficient enough to improve cardiorespiratory fitness. Heart health is an important health measure that is linked to longevity and cardiovascular disease risk.

This is how the study was conducted:

  • One group of sedentary young adults vigorously climbed a three-flight stairwell, three times per day. They were allocated one to four hours of recovery in between sessions.
  • They repeated the protocol three times each week over the course of six weeks. The researchers compared the change in their fitness to a control group which did not exercise.
  • Both groups were tested for peak oxygen uptake and peak power output.

These are the fitness training program results:

  • The stair climbers were more fit than the non-exercisers using the peak oxygen uptake measure.
  • They were also stronger compared to their sedentary counterparts at the end of the study, applying the peak power output test.
  • This was reflected in the exercisers ability to generate more power during a maximal cycling test.
  • Overall, the exercise group increased its cardiovascular fitness 5% and its peak power 12% as compared to the non-exercisers.

Evaluations from the Researchers:

Martin Gibala, a professor of kinesiology at McMaster and senior author on the study: “The findings make it even easier for people to incorporate ‘exercise snacks’ into their day. Those who work in office towers or live in apartment buildings can vigorously climb a few flights of stairs in the morning, at lunch, and in the evening and know they are getting an effective workout.”

Jonathan Little, assistant professor at UBC’s Okanagan campus and study co-author: “We know that sprint interval training works, but we were a bit surprised to see that the stair snacking approach was also effective. Vigorously climbing a few flights of stairs on your coffee or bathroom break during the day seems to be enough to boost fitness in people who are otherwise sedentary.”

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