How to Exercise Using Your Stairs

Three Parts:Doing Cardio Exercises on the StairsUsing Stairs to do Strength TrainingMeeting General Physical Activity Guidelines

If you're interested in spicing up your normal fitness routine, consider using the stairs to work out. Outside of the typical StairMaster that you'll find at your gym, regular stairs in your home or apartment building can offer a great way to exercise. You can do both cardio and strength training exercises that can seriously torch calories and keep you in shape. First, gauge your fitness level to decide if exercising on the stairs is right for you, and err on the side of caution when in doubt — falling on stairs or down stairs can be very serious. Once you've determined you're fit enough to do stair exercises, find a set of stairs that you can use and swap a few of these exercises into your normal fitness routine.

Part 1
Doing Cardio Exercises on the Stairs

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    Walk or jog stairs. If you've ever had to climb up several flights of stairs, you know that walking stairs is a serious workout. It helps get your heart pumping and breathing at a faster pace. This is why it's great for cardio.[1]
    • If you can, try to find a long flight of stairs. This way you can walk up the stairs continuously for several minutes as opposed to only walking up one flight and having to come back down again.
    • Places like sports stadiums, apartment buildings or business buildings may have multiple flights of stairs you can use.
    • Start with five to 10 minutes or as long as you can. Take a rest period and either do some walking or strength training before trying another five to 10 minutes.
    • Take the stairs by two to increase the intensity and difficulty of this exercise. You can do this while walking or jogging.
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    Try stair sprints. If you're in good shape, you can do a more demanding and difficult cardio exercise on the stairs — sprints.[2] Again, this is a great form of cardio and really gets your heart racing.
    • To do stair sprints, run up the stairs as fast as you can for as long as you can. This may only be for a few short minutes.
    • To help you keep your pace, pump your arms back and forth. This helps keep you going and also works your body harder.
    • Avoid taking the stairs two at a time while doing stair sprints unless you feel really comfortable and safe doing so. Also, avoid this exercise if you have knee problems.
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    Do stair hops and jumps. If running up and down the stairs isn't your thing, or if you have just a short stretch or flight of stairs, try doing stair hops or jumps. These are plyometric exercises that will also get your heart pumping as a great form of cardio.[3]
    • For this exercise, you can either use both legs or one leg. Using one leg is much more difficult than using both legs.
    • Start by standing facing the stairs on the floor or bottom step. Bend your knees slightly and push yourself off the ground and land on the next step up. Continue this all the way up the flight of stairs.
    • To do one leg jumps, start in the same position; however, focus on pushing off with one leg only and landing on that one leg. Continue as far as you can.
    • Make sure the stairs are deep and not shallow, meaning your entire foot should fit on the step. You want your whole foot to be able to land flat on the stairs and not hang off the edge.
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    Make your own stair interval training. Many of the stair exercises, especially cardio exercises, you might not be able to do for 30 or 45 minutes all at one time; however, if you combine a few different cardio exercises, you can make a full workout.
    • Most people like to do cardio for at least 20 minutes. If you want to lengthen your cardio exercises using the stairs, come up with your own interval training program to help keep you moving for longer.
    • Regardless of what exercises you include, start with a five minute warm up. This could be slow walking up and the down the stairs.
    • Then, alternate between a few different exercises. Maybe start with five minutes of jogging up the stairs, one minute of sprints, five minutes of jogging and then resting for two minutes.
    • Also add in stair jumps and hops in between to really get your heart racing. Then restart with walking or stair jogging again for another few minutes.

Part 2
Using Stairs to do Strength Training

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    Try stair lunges. In addition to cardio exercises, you can also include some strength training exercises using the stairs as well. Working your legs and glutes is particularly easy with stairs.
    • Lunges are an easy exercise to adapt to a staircase. Lunges really work your legs and glutes without the addition of stairs, so doing them on stairs will really up the intensity.[4]
    • To do lunges, you'll take the stairs two or three at a time. Going for more stairs than this will increase your risk of overstraining.
    • Step your right foot up two or three stairs. Focus on pulling yourself up the stairs using your right leg. You will notice this in your thigh muscles. Push yourself up until your left leg comes to meet the right leg on the step.
    • Repeat either on the same side or do alternating lunges. Aim for 10 lunges per side or do as many as you're able.
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    Do stair tricep dips. Running or jogging up the stairs is pretty taxing on your legs, glutes, heart, and lungs. If you want to get a balanced workout, you're going to want to include some upper body work as well. The elevation of the actual stairs also allows you to work the backs of the arms and triceps.[5]
    • To start, face away from the staircase. Rest your arms on the second or third stair with your fingers facing away from the stairs. Grab the corner of the stair for this exercise and keep arms shoulder width apart.
    • Keep your feet flat on the ground in front of you. Press your hips up so that your arms are in a straight, extended position.
    • Slowly lower your body down using your triceps to allow your body to dip down toward the stairs. Lower down until your arms are almost parallel to the ground.
    • Push yourself up back to the starting position. Try to do three sets of 15 to 20 reps.
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    Use stairs to do push-ups. Like tricep dips, you can also use the stairs to do push-ups as well. These work your arms, chest and core muscles.[6].
    • Start by facing the stairs and placing your hands on the first or second step. Keep your legs extended behind you so you're almost in a plank-like position. The higher the stair you use to place your hands, the easier this exercise is.
    • While keeping your hands shoulder width apart, slowly bend your elbows so that your upper body and face slowly lower down towards the stairs.
    • Lower down until your nose is almost touching the stairs. Hold this position here for a few seconds and then slowly push yourself up to the starting position.
    • The number of pushups you should do depends on your fitness level. If you're brand new, five may be enough. If you're more fit, try 20 or 50.
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    Try climbing side steps. Similar to lunges, doing side steps up the staircase can help strengthen your legs, but more specifically the inner and outer muscles of your thighs.[7]
    • Start this exercise by standing next to the stairs. Your shoulder should be facing the stairs — not your face or back.
    • Carefully step up two stairs with the leg closest to the staircase. Keep your foot flat on the stairs and pull yourself up to a standing position. You will feel this mainly in your thigh.
    • Repeat the same exercise on one side and then alternate with the other leg. Repeat eight to 10 times on both sides.
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    Perform stair calf raises. This exercise can really make your calves pop. It works the superficial gastrocnemius, which is likely what you think of when you imagine a calf muscle, as well as the soleus muscle underneath.[8]
    • Start by standing on the edge of the stair. Only about the first fourth of each foot should be on the stair; your heels should be hanging off the edge.
    • Rise up on your toes as high as you can. Keep your back, legs, and feet straight and don't allow yourself to lean forward or backwards.
    • Slowly lower your body as far as possible.
    • Keep one hand on the banister if balance is a concern.[9]
    • Try doing this on one leg for an even more effective exercise, but only do so if you have a banister or wall to hold.

Part 3
Meeting General Physical Activity Guidelines

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    Include 150 minutes of aerobic activity each week. Regardless of what type of exercises you do, its important to aim for the minimum recommended amount each week. This can include your stair exercises and other forms of exercise.
    • Health professionals recommend that you do about 150 minutes of cardio activities every week, or about 30 minutes five times a week. You can split this up in smaller bouts or larger bouts depending on your schedule.[10]
    • Stair exercises, especially stair running or jogging, are great cardiovascular exercise and can count towards your 150 minutes each week.
    • Although the stair workout here is fantastic for working the leg muscles, and good for cardio if sustained, the back muscles don't get worked from this. Make sure you include back exercises in your resistance training.
    • Other exercises you can do include: walking, jogging, using the elliptical, dancing or taking an aerobics class.
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    Do two to three days of strength training. In addition to cardiovascular exercises, also include a few days of strength training. You don't need to spend as much time doing these exercises compared to cardio.
    • Health professionals typically recommend that you include at least two days of strength training each week. You need to work every major muscle group and do so for at least 20 minutes.[11]
    • Other strength training exercises you can outside of the stairs include: weight lifting, pilates, or other plyometric exercises.
    • Many of the stair exercises described here qualify as strength-training exercises, such as lunges, stair jumps, side step ups, push-ups, dips and calf raises. This can help cut down on the overall time you're working out.
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    Include stairs as lifestyle activity. One of the great things about using stairs as a form of exercise, is that they can also be used to keep you active during the day. They're a great tool to increase your lifestyle activity.
    • In addition to incorporating stairs as a form of structured exercise, also focus on increasing your overall lifestyle activity.
    • Studies have shown that lifestyle activities can be as beneficial health-wise as more structured aerobic exercise (like going for a 30 minute walk).[12]
    • Stairs are a great way to increase your lifestyle activity. You can take the stairs to your office instead of the elevator, park higher up in the parking garage and use the stairs or take the stairs more often in your home.
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    Rest your joints and muscles one to two days a week. When you're doing more high-intensity exercises (something like doing more stair workouts), you'll need to give your body a rest during the week.
    • Just like it's recommended to include a certain amount of cardio or strength training exercises during the week, it's also important to include adequate rest. Allow yourself at least one rest day between leg workouts. If your legs are still very sore or tired, give yourself another day of rest.
    • Rest and recovery allow your body to repair and refuel from all the hard work it did during exercise. Rest days are when your body gains muscle mass and strength.[13]
    • Doing stair exercises can be difficult and physically demanding. Allow your body, muscles and joints to rest in between stair workouts so your body can improve and progress.
    • You should not be completely inactive on rest days — do something restorative and relaxing, like gentle yoga or going for a leisurely walk or bike ride.


  • The stairs can be a great tool to help you do both cardio and strength training exercises.
  • Although the stairs are great to use for exercise, alternate with other forms of exercise to avoid stressing your knees and other joints too much.

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