Want to Live Longer? Taking the Stairs (and Skipping the Elevator) May Help

Opting to climb stairs now may help you put off climbing the stairway to heaven. 
Researchers linked stair climbing to better heart health.
Researchers linked stair climbing to better heart health. / Jacobs Stock Photography Ltd/DigitalVision/Getty Images

For better heart health—and even a longer lifespan—new research suggests one doing simple and accessible exercise regularly: Taking the stairs. 

A team of researchers associated with several UK universities and hospitals systematically pooled together the results of eight past studies with a whopping 473,197 participants. People who climbed stairs had lower rates of cardiovascular disease than those who did not. The stair-steppers were also 39 percent less likely to die from cardiovascular disease and 24 percent less likely to die from any cause during the timespans covered by the studies, indicating that opting for the stairs now may put off climbing the stairway to heaven

“Based on these results, we would encourage people to incorporate stair climbing into their day-to-day lives,” study author Dr. Sophie Paddock stated in a press release

The research was presented at a conference of the European Society of Cardiology on April 26, 2024 and has not yet been formally published or peer-reviewed. Once it is, we should be able to glean more details, like how many flights of stairs per day made a statistical difference and the degree to which stairs could be isolated as a factor; of course, many people who have health conditions that may also shorten their lifespan are prevented from taking stairs by those same conditions.

A previous large study, published in 2021, used health data that 280,423 participants volunteered to the UK Biobank and eliminated those whose overall poor health diverted them from stairs. It concluded that more than five flights of stairs, about 50 steps, each day was enough to prompt a link  to a longer lifespan, though that study found no association between shunning the elevator and deaths from cardiovascular disease specifically. But another study that looked at UK Biobank data found that climbing more than five flights of stairs reduced risk of atherosclerosis, a type of heart  disease associated with strokes. 

There’s clear consensus in the medical community that stairs are a plentiful resource that can help people get their daily recommended allotment of physical exercise. (Most Americans don’t.) Health officials tout stairs as a possible means for better bone health, more “good” cholesterol, and reductions in body weight.