Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Mind and body

Got stairs? You've got a great fitness tool

Lavinia Rodriguez

Lavinia Rodriguez

Americans spend billions of dollars on exercise equipment in an effort to lose and manage their weight. And, just as with fad diets, trends in exercise equipment come and go. Free weights, Nautilus equipment, NordicTracks, steppers, bands, inflatable balls, medicine balls, trampolines and leg and wrist weights are just a few of the most popular items.

Too often a lot of money is spent on equipment that is never used or is quickly forgotten underneath a pile of clothes or in the catacombs of a closet.

Enter the often underappreciated set of stairs. If you have access to stairs, you have exercise equipment that doesn't cost extra money, never needs to be put away, doesn't require a separate room and requires no special clothing to use — yet is a great cardiovascular workout and fat burner.

You can use stairs mindfully or mindlessly as you go about your day. If you get in the habit of using the stairs instead of the elevator when you're out — and not avoiding the stairs at home until you absolutely have to climb them — you've got a quick, intense workout. Do it often enough, and you'll notice results.

Recently a reader shared this story: "I'm 72 and tend to put on weight easily. On a recent cruise, however, I managed to gain no weight despite eating all I wanted. My savior was the stairs! We were on the 11th deck. I used only the stairs unless it was an absolute necessity."

Not everyone is able to climb stairs, but many of us could with some conditioning. Taking it slowly, you can get fit enough to use stairs as part of your active lifestyle. Perhaps you'll need to start slowly, climbing just one step at a time and taking rest breaks. There are no rules about how quickly you have to move. If you're so out of breath that you wouldn't be able to have a conversation, you're pushing too hard. Slow down until you're comfortable again. Then, as you get more fit, you can challenge yourself a bit more.

Here are some tips to help you use the stairs to achieve weight loss, fitness and health:

• Take frequent, short breaks during the day and walk up and down at least one flight of stairs each time. I climb steps between seeing patients.

• Find out where the stairs are in places you frequent, such as parking garages, malls, hotels and doctors' offices.

• Get in the habit of asking where the stairs are if you're not familiar with the building you're in.

• If you have stairs available at home or work, set a daily goal for climbing them. I have a goal of climbing at least eight flights daily. It has become a game for me.

• Find reasons to go up the stairs. Some people collect items that need to go upstairs at the bottom of the stairs to save trips. It's much better to carry everything up individually.

• If you're buying or planning to build a home, consider one with stairs.

Remember, the more you climb, the longer you'll be able to climb. Stairs help keep you more fit, leaner and more physically independent.

Dr. Lavinia Rodriguez is a Tampa psychologist and expert in weight management. She is the author of "Mind Over Fat Matters: Conquering Psychological Barriers to Weight Management." Send questions to her at

Got stairs? You've got a great fitness tool 02/20/14 [Last modified: Thursday, February 20, 2014 6:55pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rays beat Orioles, but tough stretch looms that could change their plans (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Tuesday was a step back in the right direction for the Rays, who halted a season-high five-game losing streak by hanging on — and we mean that pretty much literally — for a 5-4 win over the Orioles.

    The Rays’ Tim Beckham celebrates with Mallex Smith after hitting a three-run homer in the second inning for a 5-0 lead.
  2. Diaz, Taddeo win easily in special Miami Senate primaries


    Two Miami state Senate candidates who raised and spent the most in their respective primaries — Republican Rep. Jose Felix Diaz and Democratic businesswoman Annette Taddeo — notched easy victories in a special election Tuesday night.

    Republican candidate Jose Felix Diaz is surrounded by supporters after he won the primary for Florida’s Senate District 40 race. Democrat Annette Taddeo, right, celebrates her victory with supporter Venus Lovely at BJ’s Restaurant in The Falls.
  3. In live debate, Kriseman and Baker ask St. Pete: Is the city better off?



    Mayoral candidates Rick Kriseman and Rick Baker made their best pitch to voters in front of a live television audience on Tuesday night. The candidates essentially asked this: Is the city better off now than it was four years ago?

    Incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman and former Mayor Rick Baker debate in front of a live television audience during the City of St. Petersburg Mayoral Debate at the Palladium Theater in St. Petersburg on Tuesday evening. The event was sponsored by the Tampa Bay Times and Bay News 9. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times]
  4. Romano: It all comes down to sewage in this mayoral race

    Local Government

    Well, poop.

    Nothing else really matters, does it?

    Schools, economic development, public safety? Pfft. The Rays stadium, affordable housing, the pier? Ack. When it comes to the St. Petersburg mayoral election, sewage is the yin, the yang and the yuck.

    At Tuesday’s debate, incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman said responsibility lies on him regarding the sewage crisis.
  5. Shooting sends man to hospital in St. Pete


    ST. PETERSBURG — Police were investigating a shooting that occurred around 4:40 p.m. on Tuesday and sent a man to the hospital.