DEAR MAYO CLINIC: How many people do I work at home now. Unfortunately, I couldn’t work out regularly with my schedule other than running downstairs for a quick snack between meetings. What can I do at home to exercise?
ANSWER: You don’t need fancy fitness equipment to get a good workout. You certainly don’t even have to leave your home. Bring some quick exercises into your day by simply stepping on your stairs.
Research shows that climbing stairs helps strengthen and tone your leg muscles. It keeps your leg arteries flexible and allows the blood to move more easily. Better blood flow to the legs leads to a healthier heart and body.
A three-minute walk up and down the stairs after a meal can also help you control your blood sugar levels. Skimp on your sleep last night? If you’re a young woman, climbing stairs can wake you up better than a small cup of coffee.
An easy walk up and down the stairs gives you an aerobic workout. But you can get an even bigger health boost by adding in a few resistance and balance moves.
Boost your daily workout routine with these five simple staircase exercises:
1. Push-ups on the stairs
– Put your hands firmly on a step. Your hands should be right under your shoulders.
– Press your toes into the floor and straighten your legs into a plank position. You should feel your core or abs working.
– Inhale and bend your elbows. Lower your body until your chest is just above the stairs.
– Exhale as you straighten your arms and raise your body back to the starting position.
– Keep your neck and back in a neutral position during this exercise. Don’t let your hips sag.
– If you cannot lower your body to the stairs, use the next step up.
2. Crawl stairs
– Start at the bottom of the stairs, on your arms and legs.
– Your arms should be under your shoulders, knees under your hips, and feet should be on the floor.
– Slowly lift up to your toes and lift both knees off the floor.
– Keep your back in a neutral position.
– Start crawling up the stairs by moving your opposite arm and leg forward to the next step at the same time.
– Alternate this cross-body pattern for the number of stairs you want to climb.
3. Step jump
– Stand facing away from the stairs, stand upright and put your feet shoulder width apart.
– Move your left leg back to rest on a step.
– Inhale, bend your right knee and lower your body.
– Exhale and straighten your legs, then return to a standing position.
– Your front knee should be above the center of your front foot. Don’t let the knee bend past your toes.
– Repeat for the desired number of reps before switching to put your right foot on a step.
– Stand upright with your feet shoulder distance apart in front of a step.
– Tense your core and place your left foot flat on the step while keeping your spine straight.
– Shift your weight onto your left foot.
– Exhale, push through your left heel and lift your body onto the step.
– Put your right foot completely on the step. Inhale, then slowly lower your left foot to the floor.
– Bring your right foot back down to return to your standing position.
– Keep going with your left leg until you have reached your target number of repetitions, then repeat on the opposite side.
– Do you want a bigger challenge? Hold a dumbbell or weighted object in the opposite hand of the stepping leg.
5. Side kick
– Stand with your feet parallel or to the side of the stairs. The right side of your body should be closest to the stairs.
– Use your abdominal muscles to bend your knees and hips slightly.
– Step on the first step with your right foot, followed by your left.
– Continue this stepping motion until you have reached the top of the stairs.
– Always lead with your high foot. Do not let your feet cross when climbing stairs.
– Go back the stairs and repeat the sequence with your left leg first.
– Alternatively, you can stay on one step with your right leg up and then down to the starting position.
Good balance is a must for any stair activity. Before starting any type of stair exercise, make sure you are standing securely on your feet. If you cannot stand on one leg for 45 seconds without holding onto something, you may not be able to safely do some of these exercises. If you’re not sure whether to try them out, ask your doctor if staircase exercises are safe for you.
And finally, put your phone away. Scrolling through social media or answering a text message or call during a staircase exercise can result in a dangerous misstep and fall. – Dr. Thomas Rizzo Jr., Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Mayo Clinic, Jacksonville, Florida