Heart rate, oxygen uptake, and energy cost of ascending and descending the stairs

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2002 Apr;34(4):695-9. doi: 10.1097/00005768-200204000-00021.


Purpose: This study describes the heart rate and oxygen uptake responses during, and the intensity and caloric cost of, ascending and descending a public-access staircase.

Methods: Subjects were initially assessed for their maximum oxygen uptake and heart rate on a treadmill in the laboratory. For field measurements, subjects ascended (N = 103) and descended (N = 49) 11 stories of 180 steps, each step of 15 cm in height, for a total vertical displacement of 27.0 m.

Results: The mean oxygen uptake and heart rate during the last 30 s of ascending were 33.5 +/- 4.8 mL.kg(-1).min(-1) and 159 +/- 15 beats.min(-1), respectively. During the descent, oxygen uptake and heart rate during the last 30 s of the climb were 17.0 +/- 3.8 mL.kg(-1).min(-1) and 107 +/- 18 beats.min(-1), respectively. The estimated gross energy expended during ascending and descending were 19.7 and 9.0 kcal, or equivalent to an intensity of 9.6 and 4.9 metabolic equivalents (METs), respectively (or 10.2 and 5.2 kcal.min(-1), respectively). The caloric cost of stepping up and down a step was calculated to be 0.11 and 0.05 kcal, respectively.

Conclusion: Stair-climbing exercise using a local public-access staircase met the minimum requirements for cardiorespiratory benefits and can therefore be considered a viable exercise for most people and suitable for promotion of physical activity.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Energy Metabolism*
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Facility Design and Construction
  • Female
  • Gait / physiology*
  • Health Promotion
  • Heart Rate*
  • Housing
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Oxygen Consumption*
  • Physical Fitness / physiology