For people who find it difficult to take out extra time for physical activity after a hectic schedule, exercise just got simpler and harder to avoid. Researchers have shown that a few minutes of stair climbing called the ‘stair snacking’ approach, at short intervals between work, can improve cardiovascular health.
The study showed that virtually anyone can improve their fitness, anywhere and any time throughout the day. “The findings make it even easier for people to incorporate ‘exercise snacks’ into their day,” says Martin Gibala, professor at McMaster University in Canada.
“Those who work in office towers or live in apartment buildings can vigorously climb a few flights of stairs in the morning, at lunch, and in the evening and know they are getting an effective workout.”
The latest study has challenged previous studies which had shown that brief bouts of vigorous exercise or sprint interval training (SIT) are effective when performed as a single session, requiring a total time commitment of 10 minutes or so. For this study, researchers set out to determine if SIT exercise snacks, or vigorous bouts of stair climbing performed as single sprints spread throughout the day, would be sufficient enough to improve cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF).
For the study, one group of sedentary young adults vigorously climbed a three-flight stairwell, three times per day. They repeated the protocol three times each week over the course of six weeks. The researchers compared the change in their fitness to a control group which did not exercise.
The findings, published in the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism, showed that although sprint interval training works but the stair snacking approach was also effective. “Vigorously climbing a few flights of stairs on your coffee or bathroom break during the day seems to be enough to boost fitness in people who are otherwise sedentary,” said Jonathan Little, assistant professor at University of British Columbia in Canada.
In addition to being more fit, the stair climbers were also stronger compared to their sedentary counterparts and generated more power during a maximal cycling test. In future, researchers hope to investigate different exercise snacking protocols with varying recovery times and the effect on other health-related indicators such as blood pressure and glycemic control, the team noted.