The next time you feel your focus drifting away, or worse, find yourself unintentionally nodding off at your desk, don’t rush for the coffeepot or the soda machine to get a quick jolt of energy. Instead, head for the stairwell. According to an excellent study recently published in the journal Physiology and Behavior, stair-walking can boost energy and motivation levels more effectively than caffeine!
Exercise: The Best Energy Boost Available
Inspired by numerous previous studies that show exercising for 20 minutes or more can increased energy levels, researchers from the University of Georgia set out to determine
whether a simple exercise that could be carried out in a typical office during a short break period would have a similar effect. They found that when participants walked up and down stairs at a regular pace for 10 minutes, they felt more energized and motivated than the participants who consumed 50 milligrams of caffeine.
To gauge the effects of the stair walking, participants completed tests designed to assess their working memory … attention … reaction time … work motivation … and mood.
- One group of participants took a capsule, which either contained 50 milligrams of caffeine or was a placebo.
- The other group walked up and down 30 floors of stairs at a steady pace for around 10 minutes.
“We found, in both the caffeine and placebo conditions, that there was not much change in how they felt,” says study co-author Patrick J. O’Connor, of the Department of Kinesiology at the University of Georgia. “But with exercise, they did feel more energetic and vigorous.” O’Connor also noted that for the many people whose jobs involve long periods of sitting, stair walking can be a way to build movement into their daily routine.
Can Stair Walking Keep You Young?
A separate study published in the journal Neurobiology of Aging also indicates that stair walking can be a powerful cognitive aid.
The study’s authors used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to examine the volume of grey matter in the brains of 331 healthy adults between the ages of 19 and 79. This method of measuring brain volume can be used to estimate the physiological age of a person’s brain. The researchers wanted to determine whether different physical activities affected participants’ brain ages. To their surprise, of the nine activities they looked at, only stair climbing proved to have a significant impact!
The authors determined that the more flights of stairs a person climbs, the “younger” their brain. “Many people are already climbing the stairs at least once per day,” comments lead author Jason Steffener, Ph.D., a research scientist at Concordia University’s PERFORM Centre in Montréal, and according the study’s results, “climbing more flights of stairs per day may offer even greater benefits. If you climb just one additional flight of stairs daily for a year, that can shave off 0.58 years off the age of your brain.