Background: The health and fitness benefits associated with short, intermittent bouts of exercise accumulated throughout the day have been seldom investigated. Stair climbing provides an ideal model for this purpose.
Methods: Twenty-two healthy female volunteers (18-22 years) were randomly assigned to control (N = 10) or stair-climbing (N = 12) groups. Stair climbers then underwent a 7-week stair-climbing program, progressing from one ascent per day in week 1 to six ascents per day in weeks 6 and 7, using a public access staircase (199 steps). Controls were instructed to maintain their normal lifestyle. Standardized stair-climbing tests were administered to both groups immediately before and after the program. Each paced ascent lasted 135 s, during which oxygen uptake (VO(2)) and heart rate (HR) were monitored continuously. Blood lactate concentration was also measured immediately following each test ascent. Fasting blood samples from before and after the program were analyzed for serum lipids. Data were analyzed using a two-way ANOVA with repeated measures.
Results: Relative to the insignificant changes in the control group, the stair-climbing group displayed a rise in HDL cholesterol concentration (P<0.05) and a reduced total:HDL ratio (P<0.01) over the course of the program. VO(2) and HR during the stair-climbing test were also reduced, as was blood lactate (all P<0.01).
Conclusion: 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.
Copyright 2000 American Health Foundation and Academic Press.