There are quite a few Stairmaster benefits that should make stepping exercises a constant presence in your workouts, whether you are working out at home or the gym.
What is a Stairmaster?
Stairmaster was originally the name of an exercise equipment manufacturer, although it now refers in general to any exercise machine that replicates climbing stairs. The original Stairmaster, the Stairmaster 5000, came on the market in 1983. It was essentially a treadmill with steps, with the appearance of a miniature escalator, and allowed the user to walk or run in place up the rotating stairs.
Today, Stairmaster makes many types of exercise equipment, and there are many machines on the market designed to give the benefits of a stair workout in a stationary setting. Sometimes called stair steppers, stair machines, or step machines, the designs of these machines – as well as the cost – can vary.
Types of Step Machines
Also known as a stairmill, this is the mini-escalator type of machine made famous by Stairmaster. These pieces of equipment most closely replicate the stair-climbing experience because they use actual steps in motion. Using these machines requires you to lift your legs and plant your feet just as if you were walking or running up a staircase. Stairmasters like this tend to be large and expensive, costing several thousands of dollars, and are also more heavy-duty. They are more likely to be found in a fitness center than in the home.
This type of machine generally has two-foot pedals on pivots that move up and down with variable resistance. The pedals act to replicate the motion of climbing stairs, but without the impact of stepping down on each stair – the feet stay put on the pedals as you alternate pressing down with each leg. Stair steppers usually have stationary handles or hand bars for safety and stability. They are much less expensive, with quality machines available for only a few hundred dollars, and they are also more compact, making them a better choice for working out at home.
These machines use the same foot pedal motion as stair steppers, but with a somewhat different design. With ellipticals, the pedals move in a more fluid and circular motion. They also generally have moveable handles, which allow for an upper-body workout in addition to mimicking stair climbing. Elliptical machines are commonly found in the gym as well as in private homes, and fall in the middle range of expense, costing from several hundred to a few thousand dollars.
A compact and portable version of a stair stepper, mini steppers are essentially just foot pedals on a base. Because they are so small and simple, they are the least expensive option and are easy to find for less than a hundred dollars. Mini steppers are also a good choice for working out in a small home or apartment, and can even be transported easily for workouts while traveling.
Stair Climbing Exercise Benefits
All of the stepping machines explained above seek to replicate the motions involved in jogging or running up a flight of stairs. Long recognized as a valuable workout, stair running provides many benefits.
Stronger Leg Muscles
Running up a set of stairs exercises the leg muscles much more strenuously than running alone. With every step, each leg pushes up the body’s entire weight, toning and building leg muscles quickly.
Increased Cardiovascular Strength
Because of the increased amount of effort required to climb stairs, these exercises push the heart rate up faster, making for a more efficient cardiovascular workout.
Increased Aerobic Capacity
In a similar way to increase the heart rate, stair climbing exercises the lungs more efficiently as well, boosting their capacity and endurance, helping you work out longer and more effectively.
The intensity of step exercises makes them very good at burning calories and fat. These workouts can, therefore, lead to faster weight loss than jogging or running; in some cases, measurable changes can be seen within a few weeks of implementing stair climbing exercises in your regimen. According to a study Dr. C A G Boreman et al., published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, regular stair climbing can increase your oxygen capacity and boost endurance, leading to longer workouts and more calories burned.
Since the leg bones must bear the weight of the body with each step, Stairmasters simulate the act of stair climbing and help increase bone density and strength.
In addition to the benefits of a stair climbing workout, step machines such as the Stairmaster offer significant advantages.
Variable Speed and Resistance
Stairmills, ellipticals, and stair steppers, all allow users to adjust their settings. This provides a range of ease in workouts, allowing use by beginners as well as more advanced users, and this also enables users to adjust the difficulty over time as they get in shape.
On machines like the stair stepper, where the feet don’t leave the pedals, the benefits of running upstairs can be had without the jarring impact on leg joints at each step. Similarly, there is less impact on using these machines than when running on a treadmill.
Since not everyone has access to actual staircases to run up, Stairmasters can provide the same benefits of that workout in any home, office, or fitness center.
Running on stairs may be pleasant in good weather, but during rain, snow, or extreme temperatures, having a step machine indoors means that you can enjoy the benefits of this workout in any season.
On machines that have moving handles, such as ellipticals, one workout can exercise the entire upper and lower body simultaneously, even helping to strengthen and tone the core and lower back.