If you think you’re fit because you use a staircase in your house, keep reading.

Because you are being deceived into thinking that simply climbing the stairs every day will automatically make you fit and healthy.

I’m a certified personal trainer and my parents have a staircase in their house. The presence of this one flight of steps didn’t prevent my parents from developing significant fitness and health related problems.

First my father. Of course he’d use the staircase multiple times a day, simply to get from the first floor to the second-just one pass at a time up the flight-never for deliberate exercise, but because he had to get to the second floor. And it was a leisurely pace, more like a drudgery pace; no perk.

My father was a senior citizen at the time he moved into the house. Over the next 10 years, even though he climbed those stairs daily, his mobility deteriorated.

I’m not saying that climbing stairs caused his mobility to worsen. I’m saying that it did absolutely nothing to prevent the deterioration, though one might argue that the incidental climbing may have slowed down inevitable deterioration. And this could very well be.

But this article is about dissolving the myth that using a staircase simply for transport keeps you fit and means you don’t need structured exercise sessions.

Over a 10-year period, my father’s posture became increasingly forward as his lower back weakened.

He underwent two knee replacements, one hip replacement, one toe surgery and one back surgery.

And along the way, for reasons still not known, he developed nerve damage in both thighs.

So despite these surgeries, it is painful for my father to walk, he requires a cane, and his back is extremely stiff. All of this occurred despite climbing stairs every day.

My mother climbed the stairs much more often every day since she did all the housework and would fetch things for her husband.

Yet nine years into that, she had to have quintuple bypass surgery due to extremely blocked coronary arteries.

So though her mobility was not impaired, her coronary arteries became almost 100 percent blocked despite the “exercise” of using a staircase many times a day.

Now, am I putting down stair climbing workouts? Absolutely NOT.

In fact, I’ve used the revolving staircase at the gym for my own high intensity interval training–without holding onto the rails–not even for one second — and I’d set the machine at the fastest speed and run the steps for highly intense intervals. I also have my clients use this machine.

Shutterstock/Maksym Poriechkin

But there’s a huge difference between climbing stairs for 30 minutes nonstop, and drudgingly going up one flight and then ending the activity at the top.

Even if that 8-second activity is carried out multiple times throughout the day, it will not create a training effect.

If one dashes up in a dramatic way, this may create a training effect if done enough times throughout the day.

But my parents simply walked up. And casually climbing one flight produces about the same training effect as casually walking from one room in the house to another.

I actually insisted that my father do laps up and down the stairs holding 10-pound dumbbells, to improve his mobility, but he never did this.

This was before the nerve damage began to really rear its ugly head, when he was still able to get around without a cane and without pain. But he never took the advice.

I have to believe that had he performed these laps for 10-minute sessions, twice a day, every day, this would have made a substantial difference in the outcome several years later, in that he wouldn’t be needing a cane and having all the pain and atrophy he currently has.

While he had the chance, he could have, and should have, climbed those stairs, up and down, up and down, for 10-minute nonstop workouts.

This is a far cry from simply using a staircase just to get to the second floor, and then quitting the 8-second activity at the top.

If you have a staircase in your house, you must use it deliberately for nonstop climbing in order to produce a notable training effect. Don’t just assume that the mere use of it daily is enough.

Though I’ve used my parents as an example, millions of people are in the same boat:

They’ve climbed stairs daily for years, simply to get to the second floor, yet still ended up with severe orthopedic problems or heart disease.

Lorra Garrick is a former personal trainer certified through the American Council on Exercise. At Bally Total Fitness she trained women and men of all ages for fat loss, muscle building, fitness and improved health. 



Top image: Shutterstock/ Javani LLC