Take a look around the cardio section of any fitness center and you’ll likely see rows upon rows of treadmills, ellipticals, and stationary bikes, most of them occupied. You then turn around and head back over to the stretching section, anxiously waiting for your turn. “30 minute limit?!?” you sarcastically mutter to yourself as you wait. However, over in the back corner, there stands one, or maybe two, large contraptions that never seem to have anyone using them. That large contraption is the Stairmaster, arguably the most underappreciated and underutilized piece of cardio equipment that many of us never even knew existed. Here’s a few reasons why you should give it a try!
- Joint-Friendly: Stair climbing offers a low impact form of cardio that is easy on the joints and does not force our bodies into positions that reinforce faulty movement patterns. Anyone with hip, knee, or lower back discomfort may find this mode of exercise to be beneficial. Just remember to stand up straight and not slump over the handrails!
- Total Leg Development: There may be no better piece of cardio equipment that requires the constant use of ALL the muscles of the lower body. Not just limited to the glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, and calves, stair climbing allows for proper weight shifting from hip to hip which utilizes the abductors and adductors, key muscle groups that contribute to pelvic and knee stabilization.
- Functionality: In this day and age of “functional training”, where we train ourselves in a way so that our gains will carry over to performance during activities of daily living, stair climbing is a must. Being able to climb stairs is a task that most of us have to do everyday without giving it much thought. However, as we age, maintaining this ability becomes more difficult, thus making the decisions on what type of exercise to perform even more important. If you believe in the “use it or lose it” approach, and I certainly hope that you do, the only way to get better at climbing stairs or maintain your ability to climb stairs is to….climb stairs!
- Effectiveness: I won’t lie to you; the Stairmaster is tough. Even climbing at relatively slow speeds will be sure to increase your heart rate and have you pouring sweat quicker than other forms of cardio you may be used to doing. And for those of you that are into high intensity interval training (and if you’re not, you should be!), it makes a great training tool for that as well.
So what are you waiting for? Don’t be stuck in the same boring cardio routine any longer. Give the ol’ treadmill, elliptical, or stationary bike a break, and start climbing!