6 Benefits Of Running Stairs

My university had this giant staircase outside of the gym. I’d see people out there just about every day, and at every time of day, running up and running back down. While I often looked at them in awe and kept on walking by, one day it I ended up searching online what are the benefits of running stairs to see what I was really missing out on. Well, turns out, I was missing out on a lot. After that day I started running stairs and to this day I recommend running stairs to just about every client I see. Let’s dig into the 6 benefits of running stairs that will get you motivated and ready to find a staircase near you.

What Is A High Intensity Workout

At the most basic function, running stairs is considered HIIT, or high-intensity interval training. This is training technique where you give an all-out effort for quick and intense burst times of exercise. Then after the quick burst, you may have a short, low intensity recovery period. Then, yep, you guessed it, you repeat. This is what I saw those people doing on the stairs at my university and what I loved about it, and what I love about it now, is that running stairs really takes no money, not much time, and you can do it just about anywhere that there are stairs. It’s really the all-in-one and do-it-anywhere HIIT workout that you need to try. Not convinced yet? Well, let’s talk about the benefits of running stairs.

6 Benefits Of Running Stairs - THE SWOLE KITCHEN

Pre-Workout Nutrition

Before you go hit the stairs you’re going to want to eat something no sooner than 30-45 minutes before you go workout and no longer than 2 hours before hand so you have energy in the tank. We recommend having a meal or a snack that has quality carbohydrates and protein with minimal fat. Make sure to drink water throughout the day and/or bring water with you, as hydration is extremely important for our bodies.

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Benefits Of Running Stairs #1 - Burn Calories

HIIT workouts are notorious for burning max calories and really getting the heart rate up so that you can release stored body fat in the way of sweat. As your body uses more oxygen, it will use more energy, and in turn burn more calories. We recommend giving an all out effort followed by continuous slow movement during your rest period (usually walking back down the stairs) and repeating.

If you have access to a large amount of continuous stairs, like a stadium for example, you could incorporate another type of HIIT training called TABATA, where you would sprint up the stairs for 20 seconds and rest for 10 seconds, repeating for a total of 4 minutes. Do that for an hour and trust us, your legs, lungs, and calories are going to be burning!

Benefits Of Running Stairs #2 - Improve Aerobic Capacity

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 30 minutes of a moderate intensity workout five days a week to receive max health and cardiovascular benefits. Since most stairs are pretty steep, your cardiovascular system is going to be pumping and running hard so that your lungs and limbs can get the most blood flow to support your activity. You can work on two goals at once, building muscle and improving oxygen capacity/blood flow, which who wouldn’t want that?

6 Benefits Of Running Stairs - THE SWOLE KITCHEN

Benefits Of Running Stairs #3 - Increase Core Strength

If you don’t brace your core while you’re running, you’re going to run yourself right over. No, we’re not joking. Since the lumbo-pelvic-hip complex (LPHC) is going to be working in high gear, there is a massive influence on the skeletal chain and how the core stabilizes the hip region to support the activity. In doing so, your core muscles will be recruited and in turn worked, building strength with every stride.

In order to maximize the core benefit of running stairs, make sure you’re upright and not leaned over, keeping good posture, using your arms synonymously with each knee drive. Try to avoid tilting the pelvis back and sticking out the core. Instead, tuck the pelvis and think about pulling your belly button to your spine, bracing the core, as if you were bracing for someone to give you a good ol’ gut punch.

Benefits Of Running Stairs #4 - Become A Better Runner

Running stairs helps the body learn explosive movements and quality knee drives. These two motions are going to benefit you if you take up running on pavement or on the trail. So if you’re looking to become a better runner, we suggest incorporating interval stair training into your regular routine (like a couple times a week) to build leg strength and muscle memory. 

Benefits Of Running Stairs #5 - Build Strong, Shapely Legs

Running stairs specifically recruits both the large and small muscles in your lower body and legs. These muscles are your glutes (your booty), your quads, hamstrings on the way down as well as the calves propelling you upwards. In addition to being a HIIT workout, stairs are technically considered a plyometric exercise, meaning you’re going to recruit muscles to give max force in short intervals. In doing so, the muscles in your body will contract in a really powerful or explosive way, giving you that power your need to work against gravity and changing elevations.

As compared to hills, running stairs might be a more demanding workout, because more often than not stairs are steeper than most hills you’ll find around your town. By exerting the big muscles in your legs you’ll be able to see improvements in your muscular building ability and the way that your body utilizes oxygen both during and after your workout.

RELATED: Why You're Not Losing Weight With Diet and Exercise

6 Benefits Of Running Stairs - THE SWOLE KITCHEN

Benefits Of Running Stairs #6 - Low Impact And Free

Unlike the stair master at the gym, running stairs outside is completely free and low impact on the body. You ultimately get to decide how hard, how fast, and how much you want to do. While we do recommend doing 30-45 minutes of continuous movement, everyone starts somewhere and you can go at your own pace, listening to what your body needs and pushing it where you can.

Where to Run Stairs

Maybe you haven’t noticed before, but trust us when we say, stairs are everywhere. Whether its at your local university or college, high school or metropolitan area, most buildings will have stairwells with free access for ease of use. If you really can’t find a set of stairs opt for finding a hill or steep incline that you can run/sprint up to receive the same workout benefits of running stairs.

Post-Workout Nutrition

Similar to your pre-workout nutrition that we talked about previously, post workout you’re going to want to make sure you replenish the lost energy and nutrients with quality carbohydrates and protein within 45 minutes of finishing your exercise.

RECOMMENDED: 1 Scoop Swolverine Whey Protein Isolate Mixed w/ 8-16 oz water

Benefits Of Running Stairs Post Workout - The Swole Kitchen

Benefits Of Running Stairs: Takeaway

While we could probably add quite a few more benefits in about the benefits of running stairs, the takeaway is that it is a great HIIT workout designed to help you get outside, burn calories, build strength, and improve overall health. Did we mention that it is completely free? Do yourself a favor and drive around town, find a good staircase nearby, and give that baby a whirl. You can thank us later. Until next time, happy running!

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Tags: Training