Skip the Elevator: Walk 5 Flights of Stairs and Slash Heart Disease Risk

Without a doubt, fitness, endurance, and exercise is a fundamental step in long-term health. A concept was introduced a few years ago called NEAT or non-exercise activity thermogenesis, or movement and fitness in daily life, not the gym, that matters for health. Climbing stairs, rather than the elevator, is one form of NEAT that many persons could choose during their daily life.

Could taking the stairs reduce heart disease risks? Now there is a new study that examined the relationship of stair climbing and heart disease. 



The prospective study used data on 458,860 adult participants from the UK Biobank. Information about stair climbing, sociodemographic, and lifestyle factors was collected at baseline and a resurvey 5 years after baseline. Atherosclerotic cardiovascular disesae (ASCVD) was defined as coronary artery disease (CAD), ischemic stroke (IS), or acute complications.
Associations between flights of stair climbing and ASCVD were examined as hazard ratios (HRs).
Patients were stratified by levels of genetic risk score (GRS), 10-year risks of ASCVD, and self-reported family history of ASCVD.


During a median of 12.5 years of follow-up, 39,043 ASCVD, 30,718 CAD, and 10,521 IS cases were recorded.
Compared with the reference group (reported climbing stairs 0 times/day at baseline), the multivariable-adjusted HRs for ASCVD were 0.97, 0.84 (0.82–0.87), 0.78, 0.77, and 0.81,for stair climbing of 1–5, 6–10, 11–15, 16–20 and ≥21 times/day, respectively.  The more stairs climbed the lower the risk of ASCVD.
Comparable results were obtained for CAD and IS.
Compared with people who reported no stair climbing (<5 times/d) at two examinations, those who climbed stairs at baseline and then stopped at resurvey experienced a 32% higher risk of ASCVD, perhaps because they become too ill to continue to climb stairs.


Climbing more than five flights of stairs (approx 50 steps) daily was associated with a lower risk of ASCVD types independent of disease susceptibility inclulding stroke.
Participants who stopped stair climbing between the baseline and resurvey had a higher risk of ASCVD compared with those who never climbed stairs.
An author of the research project said "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. These findings highlight the potential advantages of stair climbing as a primary preventive measure for ASCVD in the general population."
BOTTOM LINE: Use NEAT activities like climbing stairs rather than taking escalators and elevators to reduced your risk of heart disease.
Dr. Joel Kahn

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