You do not have a built-in exercise regimen just because you use your home’s staircase to get from one floor to another.
This is transportation, not real exercise in the true sense.
Before I proceed with this surprise, since many people do believe that casual use of their home’s staircase counts as exercise, I must point out that this article is about just that: casual or transportation use of the stairs, as in going up the staircase to answer the call of your tween.
It is NOT about what would indeed count as real exercise:
- Running up and down the steps nonstop for at least 10 minutes
- Climbing the steps two at a time and trotting down nonstop for at least 10 minutes
- Bunny hopping up the steps and trotting down nonstop for at least 10 minutes
- Walking up and down the steps while holding dumbbells for at least 10 minutes.
These four examples are deliberate, continuous actions that will tax the body.
That’s a whole new article. What I’m discussing here is the intermittent, incidental use of your staircase to get from one floor to another in your house.
Do not count that as exercise, as it lasts only about eight seconds. In other articles of mine, I praise the virtues of burst training: one-minute bursts of intense movement scattered throughout the day.
Burst training can definitely include deliberate, willful use of a staircase for the bursts: bounding up the steps as fast as possible, up and down, up and down, up and down, then up — to retrieve your purse.
But there is no comparison to eight seconds of casual walking up a flight of stairs to 60 seconds of any of the following: squat jumps, lunge jumps, pike jumps, burpees, pushups, side-to-side jumps, ball-wall squats, stool jumps, kicking, medicine ball movements, etc.
And few people are “up and down the stairs a hundred times a day.” Take a tally and you’ll likely see the total by nightfall is far less than what you’ve always thought.
The staircase is a great tool in the house for exercise sessions, as described above, but I can’t say it enough:
Casual use does not excuse you from setting aside specific time slots for exercise that makes you pant.
If you’re panting at the end of a casual eight or 10 second climb, you’re in poor shape.
You need time slots for continuous exercise that taxes the body, that forces your body to adapt, that forces your cardiovascular and musculoskeletal system to become more efficient.
Eight or 10 seconds here and there throughout the day won’t cut it.
However, if you’re in poor shape or “out of shape” and commit to dashing, as fast as safely possible, up the staircase whenever you casually use it, this will have a training effect.
But this training effect, because it lasts only several seconds, and because it has mechanical limitations, will go only so far.
You’ll reach a point where you’ll stop progressing, because it’s all over in only seconds, and again, there are mechanical limitations — you can only go so fast up the staircase, even if you have the potential to sprint down the street very fast.
You can progress to dashing up two steps at a time, but this, too, has its limits, and can also put you at risk for stumbling sooner or later.
I encourage you to safely dash up the steps for all casual use, but you still must set aside a time slot reserved for continuous exercise.
“Continuous” includes sessions of high intensity interval training. HIIT is continuous in the sense that the time slot is solely committed to this, even though the actual exertional time may be only four minutes out of a 30 minute time allotment.
Millions of people have a staircase in their home. Many of these women and men are totally out of shape.
The presence of a staircase in your house does not automatically make you physically fit. It does not subtract from the daily (or at least, almost daily) exertional exercise that you should be getting.
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.