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Fitness tips: add stair climbing to your routine

Tips on how to exercise using stairs
Imager Visioner/Wikipedia

Dr. JoAnne Foody, preventive cardiologist and Medical Director of ClimbCorps at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, provided us with some quick, easy tips for stair climbing. Whether using stair climbing as a way to combat office stress or as a new addition to an existing fitness routine, here are a few tips to keep in mind when getting started:

These days, many people spend long hours at work sitting in front of a computer. The negative health-impact of this is well documented, with the World Health Organization estimating that physical inactivity causes 30% of cardio-vascular disease cases, killing more than three million people annually. One way to combat the sedentary office-life is to make stair climbing part of the daily schedule. Take a midday break for a slow climb, or add some additional cardio to an existing fitness plan by stair climbing in the office, apartment building or a friend’s building.

Whether using stair climbing as a way to combat office stress or as a new addition to an existing fitness routine, here are a few tips to keep in mind when getting started:

1. Start with one step at a time: Anyone can reap health benefits from stair climbing. Begin where you are comfortable. Just adding two flights of stair climbing a day, over the course of a year, can amount to as much as five pounds lost.

2. Be safe: Choose a safe place to climb stairs. Climb up, but take the elevator down, for safety sake. You are much less likely to get injured if you lose your footing falling up the stairs.

3. Don’t forget to stretch: If you plan to incorporate stair climbing as part of a cardio-vascular exercise, it is important to carefully warm-up and stretch your leg muscles before starting, especially quads, hamstrings and gluteal muscles.

4. Use proper 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 yourself upward. Maximize the effect of the exercise by using your core, upper back and arms to help drive you forward.

5. Don’t use the handrails: The goal for stair climbing is to build up your legs and lungs. By holding the handrail, you are reducing the impact on your legs and lungs, and cheating yourself out of a better cardio-vascular workout. Let go and pump those arms to propel yourself forward and get the most out of your efforts.

Don't forget the ClimbAmerica! event, a stair climbing fundraiser being held at Fenway Park on June 7th to raise money and awareness for heart disease prevention.