The Only Gym You Need Is a Good Staircase

By Jay Willis, GQ

A new study finds that some brief, intense stair climbing has more health benefits than you’d think.

As rewarding as it is to pay $100+ a month for the right to watch elderly gentlemen do an inordinate amount of wandering around a locker room sans towel, we’ve already argued why that money might be better spent on some workout gear outside the oppressive, B.O.-laden four walls of your local 24 Hour Fitness. For those of you wondering what the hell you’re supposed to do instead, though, and are feeling a little panicked without the usual array of squat cages and barbell racks at your disposal, we have some welcome news: It turns out the solution is just a couple steps down the hallway.

The good people at McMaster’s University in Ontario, Canada—shoutout Canadians for helping make America fit again—have found that brief, intermittent periods of intense stair climbing provides similar health benefits to a rigorous sprint interval training program, the darling of fitness gurus everywhere. If you’re giving gym abstention a try, the problem is that sprint training typically requires that you spend extended time outside, and—spoiler alert—it’s really fucking cold right now. With this alternative, you don’t even have to leave the building. (You don’t even need to live in a giant apartment complex, either, since the study’s findings hold for people who continuously ran up and down a single flight of stairs, too.)

Very important businesspeople have embraced sprint training because it’s one of the most efficient methods of exercise, and the stairs check that box, too. The total time necessary to complete the researchers’ programs of choice, including warm-up and cool-down, is about 30 minutes. (Side note: “Party Up” is the greatest workout song of all time, don’t @ me, and it runs only four minutes, so just loop that thing seven-ish times and you’re done.) A half-hour might be less time than it takes you to get to the gym, and certainly less than it would take for you to recover sensation in your extremities after shivering your way through a set of windsprints at the park. If your building’s elevator is slow, overcrowded, and emits an odor not too far off that of the locker room you just abandoned, this is just one more great reason to take the stairs. ■

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