Commonly known by the brand name StairMaster, a stair climber is the only cardio equipment that requires you to push in a downward direction against gravity in the largest range of motion. That’s why it works.

Here are four key benefits and workout samples if you’re new to integrating a stair climber into your fitness routine.

Improves the heart

Canada’s Heart Research Institute has some startling statistics:

  • Someone dies from heart disease or stroke every seven minutes in Canada
  • 29 percent of deaths in Canada are from heart disease

That’s the stark reality, but we know a healthy lifestyle can lower your risk for heart disease.

Using a stair climber is a great aerobic exercise, even more than a treadmill, because of the imposed demand on your heart to pump. This keeps arteries clean, balances blood-sugar levels and helps decrease low-density lipoprotein (LDL), which is a “bad” cholesterol.

Strengthens the lower body

Stair climbers work the glutes, quads, hamstrings and calf muscles, making them stronger for activities such as skiing, skating and wall or rock climbing. All of these muscles are also critical for better walking, running and jumping.

You’ll also get a wicked core workout and come away with better posture because a stair climber is the most vertical, upright exercise.

If squats and lunges are part of your cross-training, they’ll become easier to do.

Impacts bone density

The up-and-down mechanics of a stair climber are low-impact movements on bones in your legs, hips and spine.

Since bones store minerals such as calcium, strengthening them helps slow the mineral loss that occurs with ageing.

As you maintain healthy bone density, that lowers the risk for bone fractures if you were to fall.

Increases weight loss

Most people want to do as little as they can to lose weight.

Using a stair climber is easy and offers the best amount of intensity in the shortest amount of time because of the movement, how many muscles are recruited and how quickly your heart rate elevates.

This enhances excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), which is the afterburn of calories while you’re at rest. 

What to aim for
Health Canada recommends getting a minimum of 150 minutes of moderately intense cardio exercise every week.

You really should aim to double that, doing 150 minutes on the stair climber and 150 minutes through other exercise or physical activity.

Stair-climber workouts
Your workouts should include a warmup, workout phase and recovery.

  • Warmup: Your warmup should involve easy-to-moderate intensity with a light amount of resistance. You should feel like you could do that pace for a long time.
  • Workout phase: This heart-rate training zone uses moderate-to-hard intensity. You should be sweating and breathing hard, but can carry on a conversation while doing the exercise. Keep in mind good form and technique. No leaning on the stair climber’s rails! Don’t compromise form by overdoing your step speed in an attempt to get fit faster.
  • Recovery period: Ease back down to the warmup pace during your recovery time.

Here are stair-climber workouts based on different levels of fitness, plus one quick one when you’re pressed for time.


Start out doing the beginner level twice a week.

Less is more, and frequency is better because you want your muscles to adapt to being able to do the workout three times a week within four weeks.

If you think going longer right out of the gates will get you results faster, think again. Too much, too soon may lead to extreme muscle soreness or possibly even injury. 

Expand your workouts to three to five times a week for a total of 150 minutes. Add in your cross-training exercises to reach 300 minutes.  

Some people find stair climbers addictive so only doing 300 minutes on it per week is fine, too.

Just build the time into your schedule and you’ll soon reap the four big benefits of improving your heart, strengthening your lower body, building your bones and reaching your weight-loss goals.