Regularly climbing stairs has been found to significantly reduce the risk of developing atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD) and cardiovascular disease (CVD) in general, according to a new study. The research, published in the journal Atherosclerosis, discovered that individuals who climbed 50 stairs per day reduced their risk of CVD by 20% compared to those who did not climb stairs daily.
The study analyzed data from nearly 460,000 adult participants in the UK Biobank over a period of 12.5 years. The researchers collected information on the participants’ stair-climbing habits, lifestyle, and sociodemographic factors, and then followed them for five years. They cross-referenced the data with markers of ASCVD such as coronary artery disease, ischemic stroke, and acute complications.
The study revealed that climbing stairs had the most significant protective effect for individuals who were not considered to be at high risk of CVD due to genetic factors. However, it also offset the pre-existing CVD risk for other participants. The benefits of stair-climbing on heart health are believed to be due to its vigorous nature, which helps lower various CVD risk factors such as body weight, metabolic status, inflammation, and other diseases like diabetes.
Dr. Cheng-Han Chen, medical director of the Structural Heart Program at Saddleback Medical Center, explained that climbing stairs provides an enhanced form of aerobic exercise compared to brisk walking. It engages multiple muscle groups and offers a more intense workout. In fact, climbing stairs is estimated to provide three times as much exercise as walking on level ground in the same amount of time. The speed at which one climbs the stairs may also impact the workout intensity.
However, it is important to note that stair-climbing is not the only form of exercise that can improve cardiovascular health. Dr. Chen emphasized that any form of exercise is beneficial, and individuals should not be discouraged from engaging in activities that suit their abilities. Joint problems, for example, may limit a person’s ability to climb stairs.
According to a 2022 study, ASCVD affected approximately 24 million people in the U.S. in 2019, accounting for around 10% of the population over the age of 21. CVD is a leading cause of death in the country, with one in every five deaths in 2021 attributed to the disease. Heart attacks and strokes are common manifestations of CVD, with coronary heart disease being the leading cause of death in the West.
In conclusion, climbing stairs regularly has been found to have significant benefits for cardiovascular health. It can reduce the risk of developing ASCVD and CVD in general. While stair-climbing offers a more intense workout compared to walking on level ground, any form of exercise is beneficial for overall health. It is important for individuals to find physical activities that suit their abilities and to engage in regular exercise to reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases, which are major causes of death worldwide.