Page last updated at 09:03 GMT, Monday, 1 September 2008 10:03 UK

Climbing stairs can prolong life

people walking the stairs
Climbing stairs improves fitness levels

Taking the stairs instead of the lift at work could save your life, claim Swiss researchers.

Banning the use of lifts and escalators led to better fitness, less body fat, trimmer waistlines and a drop in blood pressure, a study of 69 people found.

This translates to a 15% cut in the risk of dying prematurely from any cause, calculate the University of Geneva team.

The results were revealed at a meeting of the European Society of Cardiology.

Before the study, the 69 participants had what the researchers described as a sedentary lifestyle, meaning they did less than two hours of exercise or sport each week and climbed fewer than 10 flights of stairs each day.

Although the amount of exercise appears small, the benefits were clear in improving physical fitness and reducing body fat and blood pressure
Professor Adam Timmis, consultant cardiologist at Bart's and The London NHS Trust

Over the 12 weeks of the study, the volunteers, who were hospital employees at the university, were asked to use the stairs exclusively at work instead of taking the lift.

On average, the number of flights of stairs - classed as climbing up or down one storey - rose from five per day to 23.

After the three months of the trial, tests showed they had better lung capacity, blood pressure and cholesterol measurements.

Their weight, body fat and waist measurements also dropped, and their capacity for doing aerobic exercise improved.

Taken together, this equates to a 15% reduction in the chances of dying young, say the investigators.

Lead researcher Dr Philippe Meyer, said: "This suggests that stair climbing can have major public health implications."

He said the findings now needed to be confirmed with larger studies.

Professor Adam Timmis, consultant cardiologist at Bart's and The London NHS Trust, said: "It's a small study but valuable because it provides a practical way for busy working people to increase their exercise capacity.

"Although the amount of exercise appears small, the benefits were clear in improving physical fitness and reducing body fat and blood pressure."

June Davison, cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said: "Taking the stairs regularly is an excellent way to increase your physical activity and it can be easily incorporated into your daily routine.

"Carrying out regular physical activity can halve the risk of dying from coronary heart disease."

In the UK, half of people meet public health guidelines by doing at least 30 minutes activity on five days or more each week.




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