Fitness + Well-being

published : 2023-10-12

Simple everyday activity could slash heart disease risk by 20%, study finds

Walking up 5 flights of stairs a day could lower the risk of atherosclerosis, the leading cause of death in the US

A person climbing the stairs of a tall building, taken with a Nikon D750.

A recent study published in the medical journal Atherosclerosis has revealed that climbing just five flights of stairs per day can reduce the risk of certain types of heart disease by a staggering 20%.

The study, conducted by researchers at Tulane University in Louisiana and Peking University in Beijing, analyzed more than 12 years of data from the UK Biobank involving 458,860 adults.

Even among those who were more susceptible to the disease, the results showed a lower risk of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD) in participants who consistently climbed stairs compared to those who did not.

Atherosclerosis, also known as ASCVD, occurs when plaque builds up inside the arteries, and it is a common condition that impacts many middle-aged Americans.

In fact, about half of middle-aged Americans have this condition and are not even aware of it.

ASCVD is the leading cause of death in the US, making the findings of this study particularly significant.

Professor Lu Qi, one of the study authors from Tulane University, emphasizes that stair-climbing can be a convenient and time-efficient way to lower the risk of heart disease through vigorous exercise.

A middle-aged couple taking a brisk walk together, focusing on cardiovascular health, taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV.

Dr. Laxmi Mehta, a non-invasive cardiologist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, supports this claim and states that climbing stairs is an effective form of high-intensity aerobic exercise.

She explains that short bursts of high-intensity exercise, like climbing stairs, can improve heart disease risk factors such as blood pressure and weight.

Moreover, daily stair climbing is associated with a reduced risk for metabolic syndrome, a group of conditions that increase the risk of premature death.

The benefits of stair-climbing come not only from the extra steps but also from the added incline.

Compared to walking on a flat surface, climbing stairs requires individuals to raise their body weight against gravity, which puts extra stress on the muscles and the cardio-respiratory system.

This type of exercise not only improves cardiovascular health but also enhances bone health and strengthens muscles.

Regular stair-climbing allows the body to become stronger and more metabolically efficient, positively impacting overall health.

A group of people participating in an intense aerobic workout session, emphasizing the benefits of high-intensity exercise, taken with a Sony Alpha a7 III.

To achieve these benefits, experts recommend 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 minutes per week of vigorous aerobic activity.

However, it is important for individuals with heart symptoms or those planning to engage in vigorous stair-climbing to consult their doctors first.

While this study provides valuable insights, it's important to note that it is an observational study and does not establish causality.

Nevertheless, the findings strongly support the belief that incorporating stair-climbing into daily routines can have significant advantages for heart health.

So why not take the stairs more often? It could be a simple yet impactful step towards reducing the risk of heart disease.