Running is a great way to burn calories and lose weight. But it turns out that stair climbing is even better. If you’re wondering how many calories you can burn in a particular amount of time climbing stairs, this article is for you!
We’ll discuss things that impact how many calories you burn, how it compares to other activities, and some stair workouts to get you started. This includes both actual stairs as well as a Stairmaster.
How Many Calories Will I Burn Climbing Stairs?
How many calories you burn depends on a variety of factors, starting with body weight. But here’s a good estimate.
For 30 minutes of stair or ladder climbing, you’ll burn:
- 226 calories if you’re 125 pounds
- 272 calories if you’re 150 pounds
- 317 calories if you’re 175 pounds
- 362 calories if you’re 200 pounds
Although it varies by person, you tend to burn around 0.17 calories for every step you climb and 0.05 for every step you descend. Most people can expect to burn more than 200 calories for a half-hour workout.
If you want a custom number, use the American Council on Exercise’s calculator. Enter your weight and the number of stairs, and it’ll spit out an answer.
What Impacts Calories Burned?
Although it’s more obvious with running or walking, you can climb stairs very differently depending on the situation. If you’re texting a friend, you might slowly amble up them. However, if it’s an emergency situation, you’re going to be booking it up.
There are four major factors that impact the number of calories burned when climbing stairs. These are similar to weight loss/burning calories in general, with one factor that is unique to stair climbing.
Because there is more weight to climb up the stairs, you’ll burn more calories if you weigh more. This works with both fat and muscle.
Additionally, if you want to get more of a calorie burn, you can wear a weighted vest. It will increase the intensity by adding to the weight your body has to get up the stairs. This is a great way to build strength in your legs as well.
It makes sense intuitively—the faster you walk/run/climb stairs, the more calories you’ll burn. If you climb at a slow pace, you’ll burn fewer calories than if you run up the stairs. And yes, stair running is a real thing!
For example, if you’re 150 pounds, one stair calculator estimates that you’ll burn 143 calories in 30 minutes climbing at a slow pace, but double that at a fast pace. If you run up the stairs, it will be almost 400 calories more at 537!
What’s neat about the aforementioned calculator is that it includes a variety of different activities you can do on stairs. Carrying groceries, working out on a Stairmaster, and carrying loads of different weights are all accounted for.
If you’re looking for more ways to burn calories, this list should give you a good idea of what’s going to be the best calorie-burning activity on the stairs.
Obviously, it’s easier to increase your speed on a Stairmaster without making it more likely that you’re going to hurt yourself by tripping on a stair. Just be aware of your surroundings when you decide to speed things up.
How Long You Climb
Again, this makes sense. If you work out for a longer period of time rather than a shorter period of time, then you’re going to burn more calories. Let’s go back to our original numbers of calories burned, but change the time to an hour.
For an hour of stair climbing, you’ll burn:
- 453 calories if you’re 125 pounds
- 544 calories if you’re 150 pounds
- 635 calories if you’re 175 pounds
- 725 calories if you’re 200 pounds
In other words, you’re looking at burning around 200-300 calories for a 30-minute workout, but that jumps up to around 500-700 by adding an additional 30 minutes.
The Height of Each Step
This isn’t a factor that we typically have to keep in mind for burning calories running. The height of the step both on a Stairmaster and an actual flight of stairs makes a difference on how many calories you burn.
A taller step requires more work to climb, and therefore burns more calories. For example, someone who weighs 125 pounds and climbs 6-inch-high steps for 30 minutes will burn about 232 calories. Change that height to 8” and you’ll burn about 25 calories more.
If you want to figure out how many calories you’d burn based on stair height, check out this calculator. You can select heights of 6”, 8”, 10”, and 12”. By doubling the stair height from 6” to 12”, you’ll burn about 100 calories more for a 30-minute workout.
Differences Between Walking and Climbing Stairs
If you’re looking to burn calories, you’ll burn way more climbing stairs as compared to walking. For a 30-minute workout, you’ll burn anywhere from 2-3x as many calories climbing stairs even compared to walking briskly.
However, that doesn’t mean that you should only climb stairs and avoid any other workout. Cross-training is important because you avoid overworking particular muscles, and it makes you more well-rounded.
Climbing Stairs Vs Other Activities
Stair climbing is definitely at the top of the list of activities in terms of how many calories you burn, but let’s compare some other common activities.
For someone who is 125 pounds and works out for 30 minutes, he or she will burn:
- 232 calories climbing 6” stairs
- 300 calories running a 10-minute-mile pace
- 188 calories cycling at a 6-minute-mile pace
- 188 calories swimming casually
- 125 calories walking at a 20-minute-mile pace
If you want to know for sure with your weight, use this calculator. You can select from a wide variety of sports that you participate in and compare to climbing stairs.
Get Started Climbing Stairs
If you typically don’t take the stairs at work or at your apartment, start by doing that. If you’re winded when you get to the top, don’t stress. Your body is just getting used to it!
When I moved into a condo with five flights of stairs (and no elevator option), I had to do it. Now, stairs don’t phase me as much anymore. If you’re in the same boat but you’re looking for more of a workout, try some of these.
Walk up and down a flight of stairs three times. Once you reach the bottom that last time, run up (and maybe down) the stairs three times. Then finish by walking up and down the stairs three times.
Place your left foot on the far-left side of the second step, and then place your right foot on the far-right side of the fourth step. Go up two at a time like that, imitating a skating motion. Once you get up the flight of stairs, walk down. Repeat for as many reps as is comfortable.
Climb 110 flights of stairs (ideally that contain 2,226 steps) or 110 steps depending on your fitness level to remember the events of 9/11, since there were 110 floors in the World Trade Center Twin Towers.
Stair climbing is a great way to burn calories. Just how many calories you’ll burn depends on your weight, the intensity of your workout, and the stair height.
If you’ve been looking for something new to incorporate into your workout routine, stair climbing is a great option. You’ll burn a lot of calories, and it will help keep your body guessing as to what you’re going to do next for a workout.