How fast you climb 4 flights of stairs may reveal your heart health

How fast you climb 4 flights of stairs may reveal your heart health

Researchers say how quickly a person can walk up four flights of stairs may be an indicator of their heart health. Let's find out more.

Researchers from Spain say that being able to climb four flights of stairs in under a minute is an accurate indicator of good cardiac health.

Recently,  a study was presented in the European Society of Cardiology that compared the results of the stair-climbing test to those obtained from exercise testing conducted in a lab.

Climbing stairs might reveal your heart health.

The 165 study participants each walked or ran on a treadmill until exhaustion with their exercise capacity measured as metabolic equivalents (METs). After a rest period, they climbed 4 flights of stairs at a fast but not running pace and they had their METs measured again.

Participants who climbed the stairs in less than 40 to 45 seconds achieved more than 9 to 10 METs.
Participants who took 1.5 minutes or longer to climb the stairs achieved less than 8 METs, which translates to an anticipated death rate of 2 to 4 percent per year, or 30 percent in 10 years.

“Based on the study, the ability to climb stairs can be used as a crude way to assess one’s physical function that may be predictive of overall heart health,” Bullock-Palmer told Healthline.

“However, I believe that this crude self-assessment cannot take the place of a proper physical exam, and history by a physician, and a proper, appropriately indicated stress test,” she said.

“Climbing downstairs puts significant force on the knees. Be sure that you walk down carefully, taking care of your joints, after going upstairs,” she added.

Are there any limitations?

Are there any limitations?

According to Dr. Oyere K. Onuma, a cardiologist at Yale Medicine and assistant professor of medicine at Yale, "the flip side of this is that the test is not standardized… the type of stairs, speed of climbing the stairs, timing of effort can differ,” she said. “This method also significantly limits the evaluation of patients with limited mobility and elderly patients, who may have more mechanical difficulty with climbing stairs."

“As a physician, it’s important to evaluate each patient and assess his or her current capabilities and state of health,” said Dr. Jeremy Pollock, a cardiologist with the University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center.

“As an example, a frail 80-year-old, mostly sedentary patient should never be asked to walk up a flight of stairs,” he said. “Being able to complete a short duration of strenuous exercise is a nice predictor that a patient is a relatively low risk in the short term from a cardiovascular perspective.”

Nick Connelly

Though he spent most of his time on camera, covering major sports events, Nick’s life-long dream was to become a sports columnist. Today, Nick researches and covers workout routines, exercise-related tips and tricks and sports diets. In need of an effective training routine? Look no further than Nick’s articles.+ info

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