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Take the stairs for better heart health, researchers say


Photo: spukkato/iStockphoto

Climbing 50 stairs a day is all it takes to reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease by more than 20%, Tulane University researchers say.

The team used data from nearly 460,000 participants in the UK Biobank research database. They calculated cardiovascular disease risks based on family history, genetic risk factors and established risk factors such as history of smoking and high blood pressure. The participants also self-reported lifestyle habits and frequency of climbing stairs.

During a median 12.5-year follow-up, the researchers examined atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (defined as coronary artery disease, ischemic stroke or acute complications) occurrence and its link to climbing flights of stairs, which the researchers tout as both a publicly accessible and low-cost way to incorporate exercise into daily routines.

The participants who climbed stairs at least 11 times a day showed a 22% reduction in cardiovascular health risks compared with those who didn’t climb stairs. Also noteworthy: Those who regularly climbed stairs when they had their baseline exam but had stopped at the time they were re-surveyed saw a 32% increase in risks.

So, what’s the secret of stair climbing vs. getting the commonly recommended goal of 10,000 steps a day?

“Short bursts of high-intensity stair climbing are a time-efficient way to improve cardiorespiratory fitness and lipid profile,” Lu Qi, chair of the Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, said in a press release, “especially among those unable to achieve the current physical activity recommendations.”

The study was published online in the journal Atherosclerosis.

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