ALVIN HO is COO of VitaCare Medical Group and co-founder of FITivate Pte Ltd. He is a certified fitness professional and was named Singapore’s 10 Most Influential People in Health and Fitness aged 40 and under, by SBR. Alvin strongly believes in the adage, “Prevention is better than cure”, and strives to help individuals attain optimal fitness through living an active and healthy lifestyle.
For those who reside in high-rise apartments, I reckon you’d have the easiest access to one of the best fitness devices ever created, and it is entirely free to use, 24/7! Yes, as the headline of this feature says it, your way to better health can be found right to your doorstep. In fact, it is the stairs leading to it!
There are tonnes of benefits associated with climbing stairs, but I will name just a significant few to motivate you.
- More calories burned than in regular jogging or brisk walking: Climbing stairs is said to burn twice as much fats as jogging and three times as much fats as mere walking.
- It’s a weatherproof activity: Rain or shine, the stairs will always be readily available for you to conquer.
- It tones muscles and destroys fats: A good mix of aerobic and anaerobic exercises that result in burning of fats and toning lean muscles.
- It improves the core muscles: Climbing stairs require balance as the body weight is being shifted from one limb to the other. This helps improve the core muscles around the abdominal and lower back which essentially serve as stabilisers for the body.
- It improves cardiovascular health: This is a great cardio exercise that can strengthen the heart and reduce LDL cholesterol (low-density lipoproteins, better known as “bad” cholesterol) .
I would suggest beginners start off by making an effort to forgo the lift (don’t even look at it!) and climb up to your doorstep as often as possible. As daunting as it may seem, once you start taking the first few flights, you will find yourself having the momentum to go further. Rome wasn’t built in a day, so do not push yourself too hard to achieve maximum results in the first few tries, neither should you feel discouraged when fatigue sets in after a short while. You can always rely on the lift you ditched earlier to get you to the desired floor once you have maximised your efforts. The diagram below depicts a sample regime that you can undertake, only proceed to the next level if you are confident that your fitness and endurance have adapted to the current stage.
Remember, always aim to climb as high as you can on a daily routine, as a mere 10 steps to your first storey home doesn’t amount to any constructive workout at all. I’d also strongly recommend to climb only upwards (especially for the 10- to 25-minute climbing routine), and once you have reached the top, take a lift back down and start over. This is because walking down the stairs takes only a fraction of the effort and there is a higher chance of slipping, tripping and falling while descending those steps.
For my own training, I have integrated stairs-climbing to supplement my workout routines. On Thursdays, after my static exercises at one of the workout stations in East Coast Park, I will scale a 25-floor HDB point block to wrap up for the day. On Sundays, I will supplement my legs training day at the gym by climbing up 16 storeys back home.
I believe that, as simple an activity such as climbing stairs may appear, it can incur a positive cognitive effect. By consistently choosing to confront the more inconvenient choice – scaling the steps, as opposed to taking the lift, the mind will be primed to face and accept challenging tasks rather than turn away from them.
To conclude, it is always important to consult a qualified physician before engaging in any physical activity, especially if there are any existing medical conditions that need to be addressed.
So what are you waiting for? Scale the heights to great health today!