Taking the Stairs Can Extend Both Lifespan and Health Span – Even in the Elderly

Several recent studies suggest that making simple changes in our routine activitie4s such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator can extend both lifespan and health span, even in the elderly.

  • In the longevity community, we tend to focus on things like taking ice baths to activate cold shock proteins, taking saunas for heat shock proteins, taking medications such as rapamycin to prevent over-activation of mTOR, and taking supplements such as NMN, GlyNAC, AKG and taurine to help restore our biomarkers to youthful levels.
  • These are all important, in my estimation. But making simple lifestyle changes like taking the stairs instead of the elevator can also potentially add years to our lives, and increase our odds of still being in the world if and when better interventions become available.
  • Including them in our protocols while we’re still healthy and mobile can also help us maintain IADLs (Instrumental activities of daily living) as we grow older.

What’s an IADL?

Examples of (IADLs) include things most of us take for granted when we’re younger, but can be major issues (and points of discouragement) for the aging population, such as:

  • Bathing and showering on our own
  • Dressing and feeding ourselves
  • Using the toilet without assistance
  • Eating and swallowing
  • Personal hygiene and grooming

2010 study: “Stairs instead of elevators at workplace: cardioprotective effects of a pragmatic intervention

Results: During the intervention median daily number of ascended and descended one-story staircase units was 20.6/day (14.2-28.1) compared with 4.5/day (1.8-7.2) at baseline (P<0.001). At 12 weeks, estimated maximal aerobic capacity had increased by 9.2±15.1% (P<0.001) corresponding with approximately 1 MET.

There were significant declines in waist circumference (-1.7±2.9%), weight (-0.7±2.6%), fat mass (-1.5±8.4%), diastolic blood pressure (-1.8±8.9%), and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (-3.0±13.5%). At 6 months, the median daily number of ascended and descended one-story staircase units had decreased to 7.2 (3.5-14.0). Benefits on estimated maximal aerobic capacity (+5.9±12.2%, P=0.001) and fat mass (-1.4±8.4%, P=0.038) persisted.

Conclusion: Encouraging stair use at work is effective for improving fitness, body composition, blood pressure, and lipid profile in asymptomatic individuals with an inactive lifestyle and thus may be a simple way to significantly reduce cardiovascular disease risk at the population level.

See study

2018 study: “Association between stairs in the home and instrumental activities of daily living among community-dwelling older adults”

A study focusing on the health of individuals over 65 found that those who regularly opted for stairs over elevators or escalators enjoyed better health and agility. Climbing stairs, beyond being an excellent cardio workout, played a crucial role in preserving muscle mass, and ensuring robustness in old age.

From the study:

The presence of stairs in the home was associated with prevention of IADL decline over a 3-year period in older women without disabilities.

Although a barrier-free house is recommended for older people, our findings indicate that a home with stairs may maintain the capability to perform IADL among older adults without disabilities.

See study

2008 study: “Taking the stairs instead of the elevator cuts risk of premature death”

Choosing to walk up stairs instead of taking the elevator cuts the risk of premature death from any cause by 15%, according to scientists from the University of Geneva in Switzerland. 69 members of staff at the university, who led a sedentary lifestyle prior to the study, were asked to use the stairs at work instead of the elevator for the duration of the 12-week-long study.

Before the study, participants climbed an average of five flights of stairs per day. During the study this rose to 23 flights of stairs per day. At the end of the study results showed that participants had less body fat, trimmer waistlines, better lung capacity, and an improved capacity for aerobic exercise.

The researchers also report that blood pressure dropped and cholesterol profiles improved.Lead researcher Dr Philippe Meyer, said of the findings: “This suggests that stair climbing can have major public health implications.”

See study

Be safe

I’m not recommending that anyone take the stairs if it’s not safe to do so. If you’re not sure if it’s advisable to take the stairs in lieu of using an elevator, consult with a trained medical authority.

Not medical advice

This article is not intended as, and should not be taken as, medical advice. I’m not advising that people eat any particular diet or take any particular supplement(s), just reporting on what I’m doing. Supplements, like medications and other interventions, can have side effects; I would encourage people to research both possible benefits and side effects before starting on any supplementation regimen, and consult with a medical professional about any issues which might have a medical component.  See full Medical Disclaimer

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