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December 1, 2017
By Dusty Howard, Associate Editor and Featured Columnist

If you travel in Europe for any length of time, one of the
first things you're struck with is how culture really does
matter. By culture, I don't mean simply museums and fine
arts. I mean culture as away of expressing the
understandings that people have for what is normal,
expected, acceptable and unacceptable.

Here in America, when it comes to how we move through
our days, we have different expectations that most
Europeans. Europeans use their bodies more. They walk,
carry, climb, ride bicycles, where we tend to ride in cars
more on a daily basis, walk less, carry very little and
consider ordering food to be delivered to our doorsteps as
a sign of success, maybe even as a sign of civilization itself.

One thing they do a lot more of is climbing stairs. We in
America will do almost anything to avoid taking the stairs.
Elevators are common in apartment buildings, especially
those building s less than 100 years old. In Europe, it is far
more common to find apartment buildings older than 200
years, and these buildings often have no elevators.

Even in buildings with elevators, like the one in which I
lived in France, the residents
chose to take the stairs.  Even
the older ones well into their 70's and 80's chose to walk
up 5 flights of stairs carrying groceries rather than take the

As a result of all that, we are not as healthy as our
European friends.  For example, American women live to an
average age of 82, compared to an average age of 87 in
France for women.

Climbing Stairs Is More Strenuous Than Weightlifting

All exercise is beneficial to some extent. But only strenuous
exercise, the type that raises your heart rate, actually
brings you aerobic benefit, meaning it improves your
body's ability to take in more oxygen in your cells.  

Scientists measure how strenuous an exercise is by how
fast it increases your heart rate.

I've tried weight lifting and it's hard. As my gym trainer
pushed me to lift heavier weights, my body sometimes felt
as though it was going to buckle. During those extremely
stressful moments? I was pushing my musculature and my
circulatory systems to an uncomfortable limit.

The point at which your circulatory system cannot do any
more is called the "peak circulatory stress".  All of us have
different peaks. If you are a well-conditioned marathoner,
your circulatory stress peak is a lot higher than someone
who only exercises occasionally.

Stair climbing achieves a higher peak heart rate than
walking on a steep incline on a treadmill. In 1996 Canadian
study carried out at McMaster University, those who walked
up 12 flights of stairs reached a peak systolic blood
pressure (that's the top number of a blood pressure
reading) of 271 mm/Hg.

By contrast, doing 10 repetitions of a single arm military
press achieves a peak systolic blood pressure number of
261 for the study's participants.

Walking on a treadmill angled at 8% for 10 minutes while
carrying a 10 pound weight achieves a systolic blood
pressure reading of 244 mm/Hg.

Weight Lifting at Less Than Maximal Levels Is No More
Strenuous Than Walking on a Treadmill at an Incline

This was perhaps the most surprising finding. If you're
lifting weights at less than the maximum for your level of
conditioning, then you are exerting yourself no more than
you would by walking on a treadmill at an 8% incline.

This might explain why so many people give up on
weightlifting. The results are dramatic if you lift weights
close to your maximum effort and do so consistently. But
doing any amount less than that does not produce enough
visible changes to keep you motivated.

Stair Climbing Is Associated with Lower Body Weight in Men

A 2008 pan-European study led by Dr. Edward Shenassa of
Brown University School of Medicine examined data on
2846 Europeans. The study looked at existing data on how
much the participants climbed stairs and mapped this
against body weight (their body mass index). What they
found was that, among men, daily stair climbing is
associated with modest weight loss. The study had no data
on diet, so it is entirely possible that, adjusted for diet, the
data would have also shown that stair climbing is linked
with lower body weights in women as well.

You Should Start Stair Climbing Gradually If You Are Over

As the McMaster University study showed, climbing 12
flights of stairs can your heart rate to 271 Mm/Hg. This is
dangerous territory for anyone who is not in good physical

Stair-climbing, on the other hand, produces visible changes
in your body in a relatively short time.  The number of steps
per  should be about 60 to count as a flight, and you
should aim for between 2 to 8 flights per day.

Initially, you should not carry bags or weights if you plan
to climb more than a flight of stairs. Your knees will take a
beating, especially if you are overweight.

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People riding their bicycles home from work in France.