Cannot Go to the Gym? Climb Stairs, If You Had a Cardiac Event, All the Better

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The Big Q: If you are a heart patient, could climbing the stairs be a good workout alternative to the gym?

The Big A: 2 new studies show indicate it is,

Researchers noted that less than 25% of heart patients stick to exercise regimens and that reasons for not doing so include lack of time, equipment and access to gyms.

Brief, vigorous stair climbing and traditional moderate-intensity exercise both changed fitness, which is a Key predictor of mortality after a cardiac event,” said lead researcher Maureen MacDonald, a professor in the department of kinesiology at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.

“We’ve shown stair climbing is a safe, efficient and feasible option for cardiac rehabilitation, which is particularly relevant during the pandemic when many people don’t have the option to exercise in a gym,” she said in a University news release.

Ms. MacDonald and her colleagues randomly assigned coronary artery disease patients who’d had a cardiac procedure to either traditional moderate-intensity exercise or vigorous stair climbing.

The stair climbing involved 3 rounds of 6 flights of 12 stairs, separated by recovery periods of walking. The participants chose their own stepping pace.

Both groups of patients had improved heart-lung fitness after 4 wks of supervised training and maintained those levels for another 8 wks of unsupervised training.

They also had substantial muscular improvement, according to the studies. They were published in the June issue of the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise and recently in the journal Frontiers.

These patients who had undergone a coronary bypass or stent procedure had muscle that was compromised, compared to age-matched healthy controls,” said study co-author Stuart Phillips, also a professor in the department of kinesiology at McMaster.

The findings show that heart patients can still repair and build lost muscle.

Even in just a short period, whether it was moderate-intensity, continuous training or high-intensity stair climbing, there were beneficial adaptations in muscles after a cardiac procedure,” Professor Phillips said in the release. “The improvements were clear.”

Eat healthy, Be healthy, Live lively, Step out

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