Climbing Just 50 Steps a Day Can Cut Your Risk of Heart Disease by 20%

Climbing Stairs Heart

A study from Tulane University has found that climbing at least 50 steps or more than five flights of stairs daily can reduce the risk of heart disease by 20%. This research, emphasizing the effectiveness and accessibility of stair climbing, provides a practical alternative to traditional exercise recommendations, especially benefiting those at higher risk of cardiovascular disease.

Forget walking 10,000 steps a day. Climbing at least 50 steps daily can greatly reduce the risk of heart disease, a new study from Tulane University suggests.

Published in Atherosclerosis, the research found that climbing more than five flights of stairs daily could reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by 20%.

Atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD) along with coronary artery disease and stroke are the leading causes of morbidity and mortality worldwide.

Stair Climbing: An Efficient Cardio Exercise

“Short bursts of high-intensity stair climbing are a time-efficient way to improve cardiorespiratory fitness and lipid profile, especially among those unable to achieve the current physical activity recommendations,” said co-corresponding author Dr. Lu Qi, HCA Regents Distinguished Chair and professor at the Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. “These findings highlight the potential advantages of stair climbing as a primary preventive measure for ASCVD in the general population.”

Insights from Extensive Data Analysis

Using UK Biobank data collected from 450,000 adults, the study calculated participants’ susceptibility to cardiovascular disease based on family history, established risk factors and genetic risk factors, and surveyed participants about their lifestyle habits and frequency of stair climbing. The median follow-up time was 12.5 years.

The study found that climbing more stairs daily, especially reduced the risk of cardiovascular disease in those who were less susceptible. However, Qi said the increased risk of heart disease in more susceptible people could be “effectively offset” by daily stair climbing.

Qi touted the public availability of stairs as a low-cost, accessible way to incorporate exercise into daily routines.

“This study provides novel evidence for the protective effects of stair climbing on the risk of ASCVD, particularly for individuals with multiple ASCVD risk factors,” Qi said.

Reference: “Daily stair climbing, disease susceptibility, and risk of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease: A prospective cohort study” by Zimin Song, Li Wan, Wenxiu Wang, Yueying Li, Yimin Zhao, Zhenhuang Zhuang, Xue Dong, Wendi Xiao, Ninghao Huang, Ming Xu, Robert Clarke, Lu Qi and Tao Huang, 16 September 2023, Atherosclerosis.
DOI: 10.1016/j.atherosclerosis.2023.117300

The study was funded by the National Key R&D Program of China. 

2 Comments on "Climbing Just 50 Steps a Day Can Cut Your Risk of Heart Disease by 20%"

  1. I have read about this study elsewhere, and nowhere is it made clear whether this is 5 flights/50 steps all at once or spread throughout the day. I would guess it’s “all at once,” but a definitive answer would be helpful

    • The question in the study: “At home, during the last four weeks, about how many times a day do you climb a flight of stairs? (approx ten steps)”.
      I guess it’s a mix, as the study used data from the UK; thus people climb stairs in their home, or in their apartment building. To be sure, do both…

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