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This Daily Walking Plan Might Be All the Cardio You Need, New Study Shows

Climbing just 50 stairs a day can have a big impact on your heart health.

Getting regular aerobic exercise is one of the best things you can do for your overall health. This is especially true when it comes to your heart health. Moving for at least 30 minutes per day can lower your risk of heart attack, stroke, hypertension, and other cardiovascular complications. And a new study says there's an even quicker route to improved heart health: climbing stairs. Read on to learn how this targeted fitness plan can improve your well-being.

RELATED: 8 Daily Habits That Keep Your Heart Young.

Walking is fantastic for your heart health.

Mature woman in seafoam green sportswear smiling while out for a power walk in summer
mapodile / iStock

Walking is one of the easiest and lowest-impact ways to improve your heart health, research shows. In fact, the world's largest study on the subject, conducted by the European Society of Cardiology, found that walking just 2,337 steps a day reduces one's risk of dying from cardiovascular disease significantly—and every additional 1,000 steps taken further slashes that risk of heart-related mortality.

"Walking is a simple and accessible form of exercise that provides numerous physical health benefits," says Saara Haapanen, PhD, MSc, a movement motivator and performance consultant. "People may be motivated to walk daily to improve cardiovascular health, manage weight, increase endurance, strengthen muscles and bones, and enhance overall fitness levels."

RELATED: 26 Amazing Health Benefits of Walking.

Taking the stairs is especially beneficial.

Full length rear view of businesswoman moving up steps. Low angle view of fashionable professional is holding folder. She is wearing long coat.

There's one form of walking that's especially beneficial for your health, experts say: walking up stairs. According to Cheng-Han Chen, MD, board-certified interventional cardiologist and medical director of the Structural Heart Program at MemorialCare Saddleback Medical Center, climbing stairs gives you roughly three times as much exercise as the same amount of time walking briskly on the ground.

"As you can imagine, walking up stairs is harder exercise than walking on level ground," he explains. "That's because not only are you moving your body, you're moving it against gravity, and you're essentially pushing yourself up and out. You are also building your muscles in your lower body, strengthening your core and your lower back."

RELATED: 11 Calorie-Burning Activities That Don't Feel Like Exercise.

Here's how many steps you need to climb to make a difference, a new study says.

office workers taking the stairs

According to a new study published in the medical journal Atherosclerosis, a daily walking plan of climbing stairs may be the only cardiovascular exercise you need to maintain a healthy heart. Those researchers found that a daily routine of climbing just 50 steps—or five flights—can result in a 20 percent drop in cardiovascular disease.

Specifically, the team found that those who climbed at least 50 steps daily had a reduced rate of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD), which includes common killers like coronary artery disease and ischemic stroke.

RELATED: 6 Best Walking Workouts for Weight Loss.

But you can still have great heart health if stairs pose a challenge.

older man and woman walking arm and arm
Jacob Lund/Shutterstock

While Chen endorses stair-climbing, he notes that it's not the only form of exercise you can do to improve or maintain your heart health. Knee and joint pain are common hurdles for many seniors who wish to do cardiovascular exercises like stair climbing, but it's important not to get discouraged by an inability to do any specific activity, he says.

"Even walking on level ground is great," Chen affirms. "Going up stairs is better than walking, but walking is definitely better than sitting on the sofa."

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Lauren Gray
Lauren Gray is a New York-based writer, editor, and consultant. Read more
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