Good health advice - take the stairs
NEW YORK, Apr 27 (Reuters Health) - For years, experts have been encouraging Americans to exercise, using steps as simple as taking the stairs instead of an elevator and walking to work, where possible. A recent study bolsters this advice -- it shows that frequent bouts of intense activity throughout the day can have considerable health benefits.
The study, published in the current issue of Preventive Medicine, found that just 2 minutes of stair climbing several times a day can lower total cholesterol, raise HDL ('good') cholesterol and improve the resting pulse rate in sedentary young women.
'Such improvements may have important implications for the health of women, since poor (cardio-respiratory) fitness has been shown to be a strong, graded, and independent risk factor for cardiovascular and all-cause mortality in women, on par with cigarette smoking,' conclude Dr. Colin Boreham with the University of Ulster in Belfast and colleagues.
Further, improvements in total cholesterol levels achieved in the study could cut the rate of heart disease in women by a third, they note.
The team of researchers from the United Kingdom measured cholesterol levels, oxygen uptake, heart rates and blood lactate concentrations (a measure of metabolism) in 12 women between 18-22 years old, before and after the exercise program.
The women used a public access staircase for about 2 minutes a day for 5 days a week.
Compared with a group of 10 women who did not participate in the progressive stair-climbing program, the women who climbed stairs showed significant improvements in health and fitness levels after 7 weeks.
However, they did not show any evidence of weight loss.
'A short-term stair-climbing program can confer considerable cardiovascular health benefits on previously sedentary young women, lending credence to the potential public health benefits of this form of exercise,' the authors conclude.
They add that 'stair climbing may be a particularly efficient way of incorporating health-promoting exercise into an individual's daily lifestyle.'
Experts advise consulting with your doctor before beginning a new exercise program.
SOURCE: Preventive Medicine 2000;30:277-281.