Delaying a Stairway to Heaven – Stair walking for exercise intensity

Up Exercise Intensity with stairs

Led Zepplin got it completely wrong with their classic line, “She’s buying a stairway to heaven”

Stairs are not to be lamented, and contrary to the greatest song ever containing a flute solo (yes there is an official list) stairs are more likely delay your entrance to heaven if you scale them regularly.

Exercise intensity is important

Walking has got to be one of the best exercises going around.  Having started at about aged 12 months, you are probably pretty good at it by now.  The list of benefits of walking is endless… but this is not the “Never Ending Blog Post”, so here is a very succinct list.

– Reduces stress
– Improves bone density
– Improves cardiovascular function
– Helps maintain weight
– Builds/maintains muscle mass
– Makes you look really cool 😉

BUT… walking is usually not enough for most people if you want to ensure the meeting with Saint Peter is put off for as long as possible.

Unless you are bushwalking, power walking or you live in Hobart/Annapurna, walking generally lacks intensity. And intensity of exercise is really important to your health.

In a key study done in the 70’s, 13,000 people with a mean age of 57 were studied along with their exercise intensity to determine whether exercising helped them to live longer.

It was found that low intensity exercise had no impact on the length of their lives. Moderate intensity exercise provided a moderate increase but it was only vigorous activity which could be associated with real increases in longevity.

The message from the study (read it here) is if you want to live long, you gotta get your sweat on…

Sorry, I went all ghetto there for a minute.

Don’t worry.  Getting vigorous exercise is not as hard as it sounds.

The good news is vigorous exercise doesn’t need to be done for very long.  Just a few minutes of vigorous exercise as part of your walking regime will bring real benefits and keep Uncle Pete off your back.

This begs the question, what is vigorous exercise?  Vigorous for some, might be a stroll for others or even dangerous for the sedate. The simple talk test is a good way to measure intensity for you.

  • If you can talk and sing without puffing at all, you’re exercising at a low level.
  • If you can comfortably talk, but not sing, you’re doing moderate-intensity exercise.
  • If you can’t say more than a few words without gasping for breath, that is vigorous-intensity.

So, if as of 30 seconds ago, you are looking to up the intensity of your exercise, we recommend stairs as the most practical alternative to hiking.  For most people it is as easy varying the route on their normal suburban walk.

Stair walking is a big part of my personal exercise regime because I can get the heart rate up quickly, it is low impact, it is convenient and free.  I walk to a decent set of stairs in South Fremantle and then do 10 sets, usually 2 stairs at a time.  It takes about 20 minutes all up so I have no, “I don’t have time to exercise” excuse.  I try to do this about three times a week which is very achievable.

Well, I hope your next move is to just onto Google Maps to re-route your usual walk to include a good set of stairs.  If you are a stair walker, or about to become one, we would love to read your comments below.



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