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Is climbing stairs enough exercise?

How much exercise do I need?

The recommended amount of exercise per week is at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity. Moderate-intensity exercise includes brisk walking, cycling, swimming, doubles tennis, and stair climbing. Vigorous-intensity exercise includes running, singles tennis, and jumping rope. Meeting the exercise guidelines can provide substantial health benefits including reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers.

What are the benefits of stair climbing?

Climbing stairs provides many excellent health and fitness benefits:

  • Builds lower body and core strength
  • Burns calories and body fat
  • Strengthens bones by putting weight on the legs
  • Increases aerobic capacity and cardiovascular fitness
  • Improves balance and coordination
  • Can be done daily as part of routine at home, work, etc.

Stair climbing engages multiple major muscle groups including quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and calves. It is considered a weight-bearing and muscle-strengthening activity. The continuous stepping motion also significantly raises your heart rate for improved cardiovascular conditioning.

How many stairs should I climb for exercise?

As a moderate-intensity activity, climbing about 2-3 flights of 10-12 stairs per minute provides health benefits. Climbing for 10 continuous minutes equates to about 20-30 flights of stairs. To get more vigorous exercise, climb stairs at a quick pace continuously for 20-30 minutes. This would equate to 40-60 flights of stairs.

The number of calories burned climbing stairs depends on:

  • Your weight – heavier individuals burn more calories
  • Speed – climbing more quickly burns more calories
  • Number of floors – climbing more flights burns more calories

For a 155 lb (70 kg) person, climbing stairs at a moderate pace burns about 8-11 calories per flight. So climbing 20-30 flights would burn 160-330 calories. At a fast, vigorous pace, that person may burn 13-16 calories per flight, or 260-480 calories for 20-30 flights.

How does stair climbing compare to other exercise?

Stair climbing can be an excellent part of a balanced workout routine. Here is how it compares to other common forms of exercise:

Exercise Intensity Level Calories burned (30 min, 155 lb person)
Stair climbing (moderate pace) Moderate 240-330
Stair climbing (vigorous pace) Vigorous 390-480
Walking (3.5 mph) Moderate 150
Running (5 mph) Vigorous 355
Elliptical trainer Moderate to vigorous 270-455
Cycling (moderate effort) Moderate 210

As you can see, stair climbing burns at least as many calories as other aerobic exercises. At a vigorous pace, it can burn just as many calories as running.

Should I only use stair climbing for exercise?

While stair climbing provides an excellent cardio workout, it focuses mainly on the lower body. It’s important to balance stair climbing with exercises that target other major muscle groups for full-body fitness. Recommendations include:

  • 2-3 days per week of stair climbing
  • 2-3 days per week of strength training for upper body, core, etc.
  • 1-2 days per week of yoga, Pilates, or stretching

You can also supplement stair workouts with cardio machines like the elliptical, rowing machine, or stationary bike for variety.

Overall, stair climbing alone can fulfill your minimum cardio exercise requirements for health benefits. But adding strength, flexibility, and other aerobic activities helps achieve complete, balanced physical fitness.

What precautions should I take with stair climbing?

Stair climbing is generally low-impact and safe for most people. But you may want to check with your doctor first if you:

  • Have knee, hip, or ankle problems
  • Have cardiovascular disease
  • Are severely overweight
  • Are pregnant

Other tips include:

  • Warm up first by walking for 5-10 minutes
  • Use the handrail for support and balance
  • Wear supportive athletic shoes
  • Start slowly and gradually increase pace, duration, and number of flights
  • Cool down with walking and stretching after

As long as you start conservatively and build up gradually, stair climbing can be a safe, sustainable exercise routine with excellent health and fitness benefits.


Climbing stairs provides an effective aerobic and strength workout that can help you meet exercise guidelines. At a moderate pace, climbing several flights of stairs for 10+ minutes offers health benefits. Climbing vigorously for 20-30 minutes can provide fitness gains similar to running while being low-impact. While stair climbing works the legs and cardio, be sure to also include exercises that target the upper body, core, and flexibility for balanced fitness. Adding 2-3 stair climbing sessions per week to your routine can boost your overall activity levels and burn extra calories for better health.