Take the Stair Test and Know your Cardiovascular Health and Cancer Risk

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Take the Stair Test to Know…: How you perform on an exercise test that requires you to walk briskly can predict your risk of premature death from cardiovascular disease, cancer, and other chronic diseases. Climbing stairs can give you a glimpse of your state of health and longevity and whether you need to exercise more.

Study | Stair Test? 

Study findings presented during a recent scientific meeting of the European Society of Cardiology compared the stair-climbing test results to those obtained from exercise testing conducted in a lab. The researchers from Spain found that climbing four flights of stairs in under a minute is an accurate indicator of good cardiac health. Dr. Jesús Peteiro, a cardiologist at University Hospital a Coruña and a study author, said: 

“The stairs test is an easy way to check your heart health […] if it takes you more than one and a half minutes to ascend four flights of stairs, your health is suboptimal and it would be a good idea to consult a doctor.”

Anticipated Death Rate

The research, which is yet to be peer-reviewed or published in a scientific journal, involved 165 study participants who walked or ran on a treadmill until exhaustion with their exercise capacity measured as metabolic equivalents (METs). After resting for a while, the study group climbed four flights of stairs (60 steps) at a fast but non-running pace, then had their METs measured again.

Participants who climbed the stairs in less than 40 to 45 seconds achieved more than 9 to 10 METs. Previous studies have shown that achieving 10 METs during an exercise test is linked with a low death rate of at least one percent or less per year, or 10 percent over ten years. Participants who took 1.5 minutes or longer to climb the stairs achieved less than 8 METs, translating to an anticipated death rate of 2 to 4 percent per year, or 30 percent in 10 years.

During the tests, imaging of heart function revealed that 58 percent of the participants who took more than 1.5 minutes to climb the stairs had abnormal heart function during exercise. That compared to 32 percent of those who climbed the stairs in less than a minute. Dr. Peteiro noted: 

Physical activity has positive effect on blood pressure and lipids, reduces inflammation and improves the body’s immune response to tumors.”

Boost Your Exercise Capacity

The latest exercise guidelines for Americans say adults need at least 2 ½ hours to five hours a week of moderate-intensity exercise; or 1 hour, 15 minutes to 2 ½ hours of intense activity every week. As for stairs offering clues to a person’s heart health, doctors already ask patients whether they can go up a flight of stairs without symptoms before clearing them for major surgery, Freeman noted. Other tests found to predict longevity include getting back up without support after sitting on the floor. Try walking, running, bicycling, and swimming to boost your exercise capacity. Peteiro advises:

“We know that in some ways exercise is a medicine and it has a dose response, where typically more exercise is better.” 

Path to Physical Fitness

Regular exercise can help you control your weight, reduce your heart disease risk, and strengthen your bones and muscles. But if it’s been a while since you’ve exercised and you have health issues or concerns, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor before starting a new exercise routine. Although moderate physical activity such as brisk walking is safe for most people, health experts suggest that you talk to your doctor before starting an exercise program.

 If you’re unsure of your health status, have multiple health problems, or are pregnant, speak with your doctor before starting a new exercise program. If you’re unable to reach your doctor for an in-office appointment as a result of Covid-19 lockdowns, you have the option of reaching out to them via telehealth Apps such as Solve. Care’s Global Telehealth Exchange (GTHE). Working with your doctor ahead of time can help you plan the exercise program that’s right for you. And that’s a good first step on your path to physical fitness.