Climb your way to lower blood pressure

For everyone who thinks they don’t have time to exercise — and for postmenopausal women in particular — I begin today’s discussion with a word of advice…


Start taking the stairs. Skip right past the elevator and get to climbing. Because this single change, simple as it is, could be enough to buffer you against some of the most insidious effects of aging.


That’s the conclusion of a brand-new study, recently published in the journal Menopause. And it’s an important one, too. Because — and you’ll have to pardon my pun — staying fit can be be a real uphill battle past a certain age.


Among the many health hurdles that come with age-related hormonal shifts are increased arterial stiffness and an accompanying rise in blood pressure. So while high intensity resistance training will help to preserve muscle mass and strength as you get older, not everyone can handle such a rigorous regimen. Especially if you’re already grappling with hypertension.

Fortunately, however, this isn’t an all-or-nothing deal. As it turns out, stair climbing delivers a lot of the same benefits… and you’d be hard pressed to find an easier workout to fit into your day.

As part of this new study, researchers randomly assigned 41 postmenopausal women with stage 2 hypertension to one of two groups. Half served as non-exercising controls, while the other half climbed stairs — to the tune of 192 steps, two to five times daily, four days a week.

Researchers measured arterial stiffness, blood pressure, and leg strength both before and after the 12-week study period. And it probably won’t surprise you to hear that subjects who climbed stairs regularly reaped significant benefits in all three critical categories — while controls saw no improvements whatsoever.

Your average residential staircase is usually 12 or 13 steps. Go up and down the stairs 15 times in a day, and you’ve met the minimum set out in this study without even leaving your house. It’s a fairly effortless goal for most able-bodied people — and certainly a reasonable one, even if stairs are a challenge for you.

But the results — including a lower risk of heart disease and stroke — could be life-saving.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again — anyone can exercise. And you don’t need an expensive gym membership or fancy equipment to get a meaningful workout.  As this study shows, all you need is a flight of stairs and a willingness to better yourself.