Stair Climbing Safety

Overview

As a form of exercise, you can do step climbing in one of three venues: outdoors on a safe set of stairs, on a stair-climbing machine or in a traditional step-aerobics class. All forms of step, when done safely for 30-minutes per day, can give you many health benefits, including lowered blood pressure and reduced risk of heart disease and obesity.

Equipment

Stepping safely begins with proper equipment. If you are climbing stairs outdoors, ensure that all steps are in good condition and the staircase has a handrail. If you use a machine at your gym, the gym will have been required to meet safety regulations.
If you have never done step and wish to take a step-aerobics class, the American Council on Exercise recommends starting with a 4-inch-high step. Once you become comfortable, you can increase your step’s height based on your own height. Choose a step that does not cause your knee to bend more than 90 degrees when all of your weight is on the foot. If your knee bends more than 90 degrees, the step is too high. The average step height is 8 inches, an appropriate height for the average, semi-conditioned exerciser, according to the ACE.

Posture

Good posture is vital for all types of exercise. Step is no exception. Create an upper-body position that allows the vertebrae to stack up evenly. You can do this by stretching your head toward the ceiling, relaxing your shoulders and pulling your navel in toward your spine so that your abdominals support your back and organs. Keep your hips directly in line with your shoulders, not tilted forward or backward.

Movement

To step safely, place your foot on the step in a heel-toe motion. Your entire foot should land on the step; dangling the heel off the step can lead to injury. Keep your body erect, not shifted forward as you move up the step. Each step should be so light that it makes no sound; this will put less pressure on your knee and ankle joints.
If you are taking a step-aerobics class, you movement off the step should also be light. When you step off, land relatively close to the back of the step and on the ball of the foot, then the heel.

Hydration

All types of aerobic exercise require hydration. For a regular, 30-minute step workout, drink one to two cups of water before you start. During your workout, continue drinking water at regular intervals, and once you are done, drink when thirsty. If you are exercising in a particularly hot environment, your water needs may be greater than they would be in air conditioning.

Special Populations

Some forms of step exercise may be too intense for special populations. The American Heart Association advises people to be aware of their age, health condition and fitness goals before engaging in cardiovascular exercise. If you are elderly or pregnant or have a history of heart problems, seek a doctor’s clearance before doing any type of stair climbing. People with knee or ankle problems should also speak with a medical professional before using stair climbing as a way to raise their heart rates.

About this Author

April Redzic has been an AFAA-certified fitness instructor and a Chicago-based freelance writer since 2001, having written for “American Fitness,” “Affluence,” “Loyola” and “Spirit” magazines. The weekly women\’s fitness columnist for the Chicago Examiner, she teaches group fitness at DePaul University. She holds a bachelor\’s degree in English and anthropology from Loyola University Chicago and a master\’s in nonprofit administration from Notre Dame.