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Simple everyday activity could slash heart disease risk by 20%, study finds

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Taking the stairs may be a smart move for your heart’s health.

A recent study published in the medical journal Atherosclerosis found that regular stair-climbing could reduce the risk of certain types of heart disease.

Specifically, the research revealed that climbing five flights of stairs per day could decrease the risk of atherosclerosis — or atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD) — by 20%.

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The study, conducted by researchers at Tulane University in Louisiana and Peking University in Beijing, analyzed more than 12 years of data from the UK Biobank for 458,860 adults.

The results revealed a lower risk of ASCVD, even among those who were otherwise more susceptible to the disease.

Woman on stairs

A new study found that climbing five flights of stairs, or approximately 50 steps, each day could reduce the risk of certain types of heart disease. (iStock)

Participants who did not consistently climb stairs exhibited a higher risk of ASCVD than those who regularly did so.

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The National Institutes of Health (NIH) indicates that atherosclerosis is a “common condition that develops when a sticky substance called plaque builds up inside your artery.”

About half of middle-aged Americans have the condition and are unaware of it.

Heart disease linked to ASCVD is the leading cause of death in the U.S., the NIH reported. 

About half of middle-aged Americans have the condition and are unaware of it.

man holding chest

Disease linked to ACVSD is the leading cause of death in the U.S., according to the NIH. (iStock)

The study findings support the belief that stair-climbing could be a “convenient and time-efficient way of vigorous exercise for lowering the risk of heart disease,” said Tulane University professor Lu Qi, M.D., PhD, who was one of the study authors.

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In addition to potentially reducing the risk of heart disease, climbing stairs is also an effective form of high-intensity aerobic exercise, according to Dr. Laxmi Mehta, a non-invasive cardiologist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. 

“Routine, short bursts of high-intensity exercise, such as climbing stairs, on a regular basis can improve heart disease risk factors with lower blood pressure and healthier weight,” she told Fox News Digital.

Woman on stairs

“Daily stair climbing is associated with a reduced risk for metabolic syndrome, a group of conditions that increase the risk of premature death,” an expert said. (iStock)

“Many people don’t participate in the recommended amount of aerobic exercise due to time commitment, lack of access to exercise equipment, costs and other reasons.”

Ten minutes of the activity burns around 100 calories, according to the American Council of Exercise.

“If someone is having heart symptoms or if they plan to do vigorous stair-climbing, they may want to check in with their doctor first.”

The benefits come from not only the extra steps, but also from the added incline.

“Compared to walking on a flat surface, climbing stairs requires people to raise their own body weight against the forces of gravity, putting extra stress on muscles and the cardio-respiratory system,” Kelly Jones, a performance dietitian and consultant in Philadelphia, told Fox News Digital in an email. 

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“Working against gravity also improves bone health, on top of muscular strength benefits,” she added.

Regular stair-climbing better equips the body to recover from added stress to “become stronger and more metabolically efficient, positively impacting health,” the doctor added.

people walking upstairs

One of the study’s authors encouraged people to use the stairs more often based on the revealed benefits.  (iStock)

“Daily stair-climbing is associated with a reduced risk for metabolic syndrome, a group of conditions that increase the risk of premature death,” Jones said. 

“This includes markers such as blood cholesterol and triglycerides, blood sugar and blood pressure.” 

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Experts recommend 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 minutes per week of vigorous aerobic activity, Mehta said.

“If someone is having heart symptoms or if they plan to do vigorous stair-climbing, they may want to check in with their doctor first,” she advised. “And if they develop symptoms with climbing stairs, they should stop and discuss with their doctor.”

Study’s limitations

There were some limitations to the new study. 

“This is an observational study, so the results do not derive causality,” Qi of Tulane University told Fox News Digital. 

“The information on stair-climbing is limited,” he also said. 

Fox News Digital’s Melissa Rudy contributed to this report.

For more Health articles, visit www.foxnews.com/health.

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