Cardio can get old, fast. That’s why it’s helpful to employ a variety of different methods to get your heart pumping. If you like to run outside or on a treadmill, great. Others prefer to hit the rowing machine, jump rope or climb stairs. Climbing in particular has seen an uptick in recent years, especially as climbing-focused machines like the StepMill and Jacobs Ladder gain popularity.
Despite having an abundance of options at your disposal, the best part about climbing is you don’t actually need any equipment at all — a staircase and gravity will do the trick.
WHY STAIR CLIMBING WORKS
Though stair climbing is nothing new, recent studies have shined a light on how and why it’s so effective. Research published in Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism found even short bursts of stair climbing — as little as a few flights of stairs a few times per day — is enough to improve cardiovascular fitness and strength. Another study showed climbing stairs can reduce blood pressure, promote fat loss, reduce risk of osteoporosis and improve leg strength.
The reason stair climbing is so effective is it’s a resistance exercise. You must push against gravity to propel your bodyweight forward. This engages your entire lower body, including your glutes, quads, hamstrings and calves. In addition to working these major muscle groups, climbing also enlists your core to keep your body stable throughout the movement. And, like all resistance exercises, it can even strengthen your bones.
Now that we’ve covered why climbing is worth the effort, let’s roundup a few fun places to do it. Because, while gyms are always a great option for working out, sometimes it’s nice to mix things up. Say, by racing a group of people up a ridiculously steep staircase in Switzerland.
5 STAIR-CLIMBING RACES TO TRY
1. STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN
May 2020, Date TBD | Quinto, Switzerland
Featuring an average slope of 71% and a maximum slope of 89%, this nearly-vertical climb will have you on all fours for much of the race. You’ll gain a half mile of elevation while navigating your way up 4,261 steps.
2. TUNNEL TO TOWERS
June 2, 2019 | New York City
Started to honor September 11 first responders, Tunnel to Towers takes participants to the One World Observatory at New York’s One World Trade Center. After 104 stories and 2,226 steps, you’ll be able to enjoy panoramic city views while you catch your breath.
June 14–15, 2019 | Mülenen, Switzerland
The longest staircase in the world covers more than two miles over 11,674 steps, with an astounding one-mile elevation gain. Known as “Switzerland’s Pyramid,” it runs alongside a funicular railway and, once per year, you can test your mettle against other like-minded, strong-legged racers as you face inclines averaging 55%.
4. CF CLIMB
July 20, 2019 | Denver
The 10th annual CF Climb will once again inhabit Mile High Stadium in Denver to support the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Hundreds of participants encompassing all ages and backgrounds gather to climb up and down the stadium stairs. Lace up your shoes and take part, and 3,865 steps later, you’ll have really earned your lunch.
5. BROADGATE TOWER RUN UP
July 20, 2019 | London
Part of the Vertical World Circuit, a series of global staircase runs, the Broadgate Tower Run Up covers 877 steps in the heart of London. Hundreds of racers take to the course, but if you’re up to the challenge, you can enter the quarter-mile race, which includes three ascents, or the full-mile race, which involves tackling the stairs 12 times.