STAIR CLIMBING - A great cross training and HIIT option for increasing challenge.

If you find yourself huffing and puffing after taking a flight of stairs and consider them your nemesis, you're in good company. Nonetheless, stair climbing offers a free and fast route to cardiovascular fitness. The vertical component is what separates stair climbing from more popular, but less strenuous forms of exercise that are performed on a treadmill. Cedric Bryant, chief science officer for the American Council on Exercise says a treadmill with a maximum grade of 15-20% cannot compete with stair climbing as an aerobic exercise. "Climbing stairs is noticeably more challenging," he notes. "With stair climbing, you have to do so much vertical work. You move your body weight against the effects of gravity more so than when you are on level ground." Stair climbing also produces a major calorie burn, allowing stair climbers to spend less time in their workout.  "Stair climbing gives you more bang for the buck," says Carla Sottovia, director of fitness and PT at Cooper Fitness Center in Dallas, Texas. "Any time you do high intensity exercise, whether it be stair climbing or sprints, it helps you gain fitness. Because you are pushing harder, you can cut down the time you spend training." Most surprisingly, climbing stairs causes only modest impact on joints and muscles, meaning stair climbers typically are not plagued by muscle soreness as long as they vary the way they come down the stairs (or eliminate it by taking the elevator down).

For a stairs workout loaded with creative stair climbing variations, visit our workouts area: