Step up: take the stairs to help your heart

Climbing stairs is associated with a longer life, according to research presented this week at an annual meeting of Europe’s leading cardiologists.

The systematic review of 9 previous studies covering nearly 500,000 participants investigated whether climbing stairs as a form of physical activity could play a role in reducing the risks of cardiovascular diseases and premature death.

Study author Dr Sophie Paddock, of the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital Foundation Trust, UK, says: “if you have the choice of taking the stairs or the lift, go for the stairs as it will help your heart”.

“Even brief bursts of physical activity have beneficial health impacts, and short bouts of stair climbing should be an achievable target to integrate into daily routines.”

Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are a group of disorders of the hearth and blood vessels. They are the leading cause of non-communicable disease death globally, with 17.9m people estimated to have died of one in 2019 alone. Physical inactivity is one of the most important behavioural risk factors for developing CVDs. More than 1 in 4 adults do not meet the global recommended levels of physical activity.

The meta-analysis on the best available science  covered 480,479 individuals aged 35-84 years old. 53% of participants were women.

Stair climbing was significantly associated with a 24% reduced risk of dying from any cause and a 39% lower likelihood of dying from cardiovascular disease, compared to not climbing stairs.

It was also linked to a reduced risk of CVDs including heart attack, heart failure and stroke.

“Based on these results, we would encourage people to incorporate stair climbing into their day-to-day lives,” says Paddock.

“Our study suggested that the more stairs climbed, the greater the benefits – but this needs to be confirmed. So, whether at work, home, or elsewhere, take the stairs.”

The research was presented to ESC Preventive Cardiology 2024, an annual congress of the European Association of Preventive Cardiology in Greece this week.

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