Take the Stairs to Reduce Your Heart Disease Risk: Study

2 min read

Oct. 10, 2023 – Climbing at least five flights of stairs daily has been found to reduce the risk of two deadly types of heart disease.

Researchers examined the relationship between how many flights of stairs people climbed daily and their risk of a group of conditions known as atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD), which includes coronary artery disease and ischemic stroke. Coronary artery disease is the buildup of sticky plaque in the arteries to the heart, and an ischemic stroke occurs when a blood clot blocks an artery to the brain.

Five flights of stairs are equal to 50 stair steps. Climbing at least five flights daily reduced people’s risk of ASCVD by 3%, but climbing more flights daily helped even more. Climbing six to 10 flights daily reduced the risk by 16%, and doing 11 to 15 flights reduced the risk by 22%. 

The follow-up period analyzed by researchers was about 12.5 years. The findings were published in the September edition of the journal Atherosclerosis. The researchers looked at data from more than 450,000 adults who previously contributed their health data to the U.K. Biobank. 

“Short bursts of high-intensity stair climbing are a time-efficient way to improve cardiorespiratory fitness and lipid profile, especially among those unable to achieve the current physical activity recommendations,” study author Lu Qi, MD, PhD, director of the Tulane University Obesity Research Center, said in a statement. “These findings highlight the potential advantages of stair climbing as a primary preventive measure for ASCVD in the general population.”

Qi also noted that stairs are publicly available and are a low-cost way to put exercise into people’s daily routines.

The researchers also found that people who regularly climbed stairs during the early part of the study, but later quit stair climbing, had a higher risk of ASCVD than people who never climbed stairs at all.

Ischemic stroke is the most common type of stroke, accounting for 88% of all strokes, according to a 2019 study in the journal Stroke, which showed that 11% of people died within 30 days of the stroke, and within 5 years, 70% of people died or depended on help for daily living.

More than 18 million people in the U.S. have coronary artery disease, and in 2019 the disease killed more than 360,000 people, the Cleveland Clinic says. The condition is known as the “silent killer” because people can have it for years without knowing, and then have a heart attack.