Do This With Your Body At Least Once A Year To Test Your Cardiovascular Health

Your body wants to move, and it needs to move every day. You might have had plenty of exercise playing as a kid, but sometimes it's a chore to get enough exercise each week. Exercise pairs well with a healthy diet in managing your weight, but it can also give your emotional and cognitive health a boost, says the National Institutes of Health. Exercise strengthens your muscles and bones, and it keeps your heart and lungs functioning. Physical activity lowers your risk of heart disease by lowering blood pressure and cholesterol.

The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise a week. How can you tell your exercise intensity? According to Better Health Channel, a heart rate monitor or a rate of perceived exertion scale can help measure your exercise intensity, but you can gauge your real-time exercise intensity using the talk test. You're exercising at a light intensity if you can talk or sing. You won't be able to sing during moderate exercise intensity, but you should still be able to talk. A vigorous workout might let you say a few words, but it should be difficult.

Even if you take the elevator whenever possible, at least once a year, opt for a flight of stairs. If you can sing while you walk up the stairs, your lungs and heart are relatively healthy (per The Healthy). If you're struggling to sing, you might want your doctor to check your lungs and heart.

Climbing stairs can determine your heart health

Although there isn't any connection between singing on the stairs and heart disease, a 2021 article in Revista Espanola de Cardiologia said that climbing stairs is a good indicator of heart health because it measures your exercise capacity. Typically, doctors will measure your exercise capacity using a treadmill, but the study looked at how quickly people could ascend four flights of stairs, or about 60 steps. The people who had good exercise capacity could climb the stairs in about 46 seconds, and those who had intermediate exercise capacity took almost a minute to climb 60 stairs. Those who took 82 seconds or longer had limited exercise capacity.

A press release about the study from the European Society of Cardiology said that a low or limited exercise capacity is linked to a higher mortality rate. Study author and cardiologist Dr. Jesús Peteiro said, "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."

Taking the stairs is good for your heart

You can take care of your heart and overall health by taking the stairs more often. A 2023 study in Atherosclerosis investigated the relationship between cardiovascular disease and how often people took the stairs. The study followed more than 400,000 in the U.K. for about 12 years, asking them at the start of the study and five years later if they climbed at least five flights of stairs a day. The stair climbers had a 20% lower risk of developing atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease compared to those who didn't take the stairs each day. Strangely, those who climbed stairs at the start of the study but stopped five years later had a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease than those who never took the stairs.

Even if you can't get to a gym for daily exercise, using stairs for your workouts can reduce your blood pressure and improve your leg strength, according to a 2018 study in Menopause. Women with stage 2 hypertension who climbed 192 steps up to five times a day for four days a week also reduced the stiffness in their arteries.