Do you tend to start the new year off with a resolution to run, or do hot yogalates every single day, and then a week in, you fall right off the exercise bandwagon? With all those brand new leggings and sports bras staring at you in a pile in your room like a little spandex monster? Yeah, ahem, me neither. But if that does sound like you (and yeah, TBH, me too), I can assure you, there are ways to get back into the swing of things with some simple, everyday movement habits. The benefits of simple things like stair-climbing and walking, for instance, are even better for you than you might imagine, according to the results of a new study.
The new study, which has been published in the medical journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, basically argues that spurts of "exercise snacks" (seriously, that phrase is actually in the official title of the study), including activities like stair-climbing, are linked to improvements in cardiorespiratory fitness, aka your body's ability to consistently get oxygen where it needs to go during physical activity.
More specifically, the researchers looked at the effects of these "exercise snacks” (for real though, cutest name ever) on something called "peak oxygen uptake," which is essentially the maximum amount of air your body can take in while doing increasingly difficult bouts of exercise.
Per The New York Times, the researchers recruited a group of 24 "healthy but inactive college students," and had them, as the study explained, "vigorously ascend" a three-flight, 60-step stairwell, three times a day, for at least three days during the week, every one to four hours. In total, the participants did this for six weeks.
The researchers then compared the volunteers' peak oxygen intake with that of another control group of volunteers, who stayed sedentary for that same period of time. Although the researchers described the increase in peak oxygen intake for the stair-climbing participants as "modest," their results did indeed show that these little "exercise snacks" seemed to be really good for improving overall cardiorespiratory fitness. Not bad, right?
Which means, my friends, that getting movement and a workout in doesn't have to happen all in one go at the gym or at an hour-long cycling class. It also means that you don't have to consider any exercise-related New Year's resolutions you may be trying to keep to be total failures if you aren't putting on your sneaks every single day. The idea is that you can fit fitness and movement into your day in little bite-sized pieces. For instance, you could consider doing things like walking those 10 blocks to your favorite cafe instead of taking an Uber, stretching every hour, and yes, taking that big shipment of new undies you just got all the way up your 16-flight apartment building.
Besides, in case you're wondering, this isn't the first time that taking the stairs has been shown to be a solid way to take care of yourself. Not only is the extra ascension good for your lungs and heart, another study published in the scientific journal Neurobiology of Aging showed a correlation between the amount of stairs a person climbs and the "youth" of their brain, neurologically speaking. According to a press release, researchers from Concordia University in Canada took a peek at the brains of 331 healthy adults aged 19 to 79, who also gave details on things like their education levels, and how often they engage in different kinds of physical activity, as part of the study's assessments. Overall, the researchers found that "the more flights of stairs climbed, and the more years of schooling completed, the younger the brain," as per the study's press release.
Coincidence? Eh, doesn't seem like it.