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Should I choose steps over stairs?

I recently had this question asked of me: "I have the choice of parking on the street and walking six blocks to get to work or parking in the ramp and taking six flights of stairs. Which is better?"

Really, there is no wrong answer to this question because both choices are better for you than no physical activity. However, with all the emphasis on getting 10,000 steps a day, it’s an important reminder that not all steps are created equal.

Calorie burn
First off, walking up and down stairs burns more calories than walking on a flat surface at a moderate pace. How many calories you burn depends on your weight, but going down stairs burns between 175 and 275 calories per hour and going up stairs burns 530 to 835 calories per hour. Compare that to the 175 to 275 calories burned per hour walking a 20-minute mile. 

Cardiovascular fitness
The intensity of stair climbing also increases your cardiovascular fitness. Your heart rate remains higher, even descending stairs, than it would walking at a moderate pace for your entire workout. 

Muscle strength
Taking the stairs, activates and strengthens more muscles in your legs and back than walking. Even going down the stairs works and tones muscles and joints, plus it is good for balance and coordination.

Even at a slow pace, you can get "more bang for your buck" taking the stairs than walking on a flat surface. However, the most important thing is to make choices that keep you active, whenever possible. 


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