If you don’t have the time or money for aerobic and resistance training, why not try climbing the stairs? A new study demonstrates that stair climbing not only lowers blood pressure but also builds leg strength, especially in postmenopausal women with estrogen deficiencies who are more susceptible to vascular and muscle problems. The study results are published online in Menopause (1), the journal of The North American Menopause Society (NAMS).
Few people would argue that exercise is good for you. But for postmenopausal women, identifying the right form of exercise to achieve the desired benefits without creating additional health problems is more complicated. High-intensity resistance training, for example, is an effective intervention for reducing age-related loss of muscle strength in postmenopausal women. However, it also has the potential to increase blood pressure in middle-aged adults with prehypertension or hypertension. These negative effects have been minimized by combining aerobic and resistance training, but there are barriers that prevent many women from taking advantage of the benefits. These real and perceived barriers include lack of time, money, nearby fitness facilities, poor weather, and a sense of embarrassment.
Stair climbing, in contrast, offers the benefits of aerobic and resistance exercise for improving cardiorespiratory fitness and leg muscle strength in postmenopausal women without their having to leave the house or pay a fee. It offers the additional benefits of fat loss, improved lipid profiles, and reduced risk of osteoporosis. Before this study, stair climbing had not been evaluated for its effects on blood pressure and arterial stiffness, which is a thickening and stiffening of the arterial wall.
In the article “The effects of stair climbing on arterial stiffness, blood pressure, and leg strength in postmenopausal women with stage 2 hypertension,” (2) results are provided from a study involving Korean postmenopausal women who trained four days a week, climbing 192 steps two to five times a day. The study concluded that stair climbing led to reductions in arterial stiffness and blood pressure and increases in leg strength in stage 2 hypertensive postmenopausal women. Stair climbing led to reductions in arterial stiffness, Blood Pressure, and increases in leg strength in stage 2 hypertensive postmenopausal women. The decrease in arterial stiffness partially explained the improvements in SBP and leg strength. Stair climbing may be an effective intervention in the prevention and treatment of menopause/aging-related vascular complications and muscle weakness.
This study demonstrates how simple lifestyle interventions such as stair climbing can be effective in preventing or reducing the negative effects of menopause and age on the vascular system and leg muscles of postmenopausal women with hypertension.
Dr. JoAnn Pinkerton, NAMS executive director.