What good does short (but regular and strenuous) exertion do, health-wise?

I am thinking of climbing the five flights of stairs to my office five days/week. I could probably do it in less than 3 minutes if I were to hurry, but even going at a leisurely pace it wouldn’t take more than 5. If I were to do this, what (if any) exercise benefits would I gain?

I ask because I’ve always heard that good cardio and toning exercises require sustained activity to have any beneficial effect. But the exertion should still be good for something, right?

It will be a good start. I would try and do it a couple of additional times during the day - lunch break and maybe smoko break as well.

I had less stairs to do, but every two hours I would go down the stairs to the ground floor (and not to the cafe for a snack, either).


At the very least, it will move your joints into wider ranges than if all you do is sit, walk on flat surfaces and stand.

Have we really become such a sedentary species that climbing five flights of stairs is considered “strenuous exercise” now?

Compared with how little some people move? Hell yeah.

Same here. I also paused at the OP’s time estimates of 3-5 minutes to climb the stairs. Really? I don’t know if I could do it that slowly if I tried!

Are you thinking residential stairs, guys? Because the floors here at work are probably twice as high as residential stairs, at least.

Here’s a NYTimes article about fitness from intense short bursts of exercise: http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2010/02/25/health/AP-EU-MED-Intense-Exercise.html?_r=1

That article is about interval training.

So, if you were to jog up the stairs, walk down, and jog up again, and do that at least 4 times to start (increase the sets as you get more fit), that would qualify as interval training. However, something is better than nothing.

Helps keep blood pressure numbers and pulse rate down, along with glucose numbers. Important things.

I finally found the real NYT article I was looking for, interval training but they’re talking about 6 intense minutes a week:


Ok, fine. I’ve never been good at estimating times. The reason why I tacked on some extra time is that there are a couple of floors on my building where one has to exit the stairwell and walk laterally all the way to the other end of the building and proceed upward.

And the “strenuous” part is relative. I’m not in the kind of excellent shape you two are in, apparently, so moving briskly up 5 flights of stairs is a little strenuous to me. I’ve just begun working out, also, so I’m sure it’ll feel less strenuous over time.

Thanks for coming in to this 6’1 213-lb tub-of-lard’s thread and providing the necessary social commentary. I’m sure we’re all the better for having heard that “Americans are fat” for the 80 millionth time.

The best exercise is the one you do. Start taking the stairs. When it gets easy, add something else.

Huh? In a multi-level building the stairs are a fire exit. A stairwell should service all floors.

Other than that, start taking the stairs!

Not all stairs are fire stairs.

There is a set of “outside stairs” that lead directly down and to the outsidd, but they’re only accessible from inside the building. The “inside” stairwell goes up to floor 3. Then you have to exit the stairwell, walk a ways, and then start walking up the stairs again.

And the article warns against running being one of the exercises, due to the intensity needed which raises the injury risk.

You may not get a great deal of cardio or mucscle building benefits, but any exercise will burn calories. Five minutes of light stair climbing, twice a day, 200 days a year will burn enough calories for a 200 lb person to lose three pounds.

It may not seem like much, but every little bit helps - especially over several years. I say go for it!

Calorie burning doesn’t accumulate. This is because your body will compensate for any additional calorie burning.

Unless you do sustained exercise over long periods your metabolism won’t change. This means at least one hour of exercise (where your heartbeat is 65% to 85% of your theoretical maximum) per day for five days per week.

Otherwise if you climb stairs and burn off say an additional 200 calories at night when you rest, your body will simply lower the metabolism to make up for it, the net result is no weight loss.

This is why the programs that advocate, walk more lose weight never work. You don’t gain any benefit from slightly altering your exercise.

I was involved in a sports med study and it was really surprising how much your body doesn’t want to lose weight. You have to force it.

If you just take the stairs instead of an elevator, the risk of falling and hurting yourself is greater than any benefit you’d gain. The same goes for walking short distances instead of a taxi or bus. You’re more apt to fall and hurt yourself than gain any caloric or heart benefit.

You HAVE to work out. Sixty minutes seems to be the threashhold. In the famous John Hopkins study they found those doing 50 minutes of cardio had NO benefit for their heart. It was if they sat around and did nothing. Those who did 60 minutes or more, gained A LOT more.

Unless you raise your heart rate over a sustained period of time, which is defined as 60 CONTINUOUS minutes, five times a week, you won’t be doing much if anything at all.

This is why these 20 or 30 minute exercise programs fail.

Markxxx, thanks for the thorough response. It seems to have confirmed my suspicion that taking the stairs “for the exercise”, as some people do, isn’t doing much good over taking the elevator.

I am indeed beginning to work out on a regular basis. It’s a major lifestyle change for me. I started a thread a few weeks ago about how exercise was not fun, stress-relieving, or energizing for me, and I got some good recommendations to make it more fun so that I am likely to continue to do it.