Climbing stairs is a quick way to elevate your heart rate.
Walking up stairs and walking or running on a treadmill gets your heart beating faster than when you're sitting down or strolling on a flat surface. That's because the activity causes your heart to pump oxygen-rich blood throughout your body to support the movement of your muscles. To compensate for a higher activity level, your heart rate will rise as you walk faster on stairs or on the treadmill; it will then fall as you walk more slowly.
The faster you go on the stairs or a treadmill, the harder your heart has to work. Heart rate increases with activity to deliver oxygen to your working muscles.
Understand the Physiology
When you are sitting or resting comfortably, your heart rate is at its lowest because your muscles aren't really being used. This is known as your resting heart rate. The average adult's resting heart rate is between 60 and 100 beats per minute, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. When you use your muscles, they burn oxygen and give off carbon dioxide. As soon as you start to be more physically active, your heart beats faster to circulate oxygen and nutrients in your blood throughout your body to support proper muscle function. The blood flow also removes the carbon dioxide your muscles produce when active.
Increase Fitness Through Exercise
When you exercise, your heart rate increases - but if you continually exercise over time, your heart will become stronger and more efficient. The more efficient your heart becomes, the more blood, oxygen and nutrients it distributes throughout your body with each and every pump. This means it doesn't have to beat as much or as fast when you're participating in high-intensity activities like exercise, including walking on stairs or on the treadmill. So, although your heart will still beat faster when you are exercising than it will when you are at rest, it won't beat as fast as it would if you were out of shape.
Target Your Maximum Heart Rate
Whether you're walking up stairs or walking on the treadmill, to get the maximum benefit from your exercise, you'll need to reach around 50 percent of your maximum heart rate during your workouts. Your maximum heart rate is roughly 220 minus your age, according to the American Heart Association. So, for example, if you're 35, then your maximum heart rate is 185. To exercise at a moderate level, you'll need to reach 50 to 70 percent of this figure as your heart rate during your workout. If you want to work out at a more vigorous level, you'll need to reach 70 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate. To stay healthy, you'll need around 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week or 150 minutes of moderate exercise.
Compare Treadmill and Stair Exercise
If you're walking at 3 miles per hour on the treadmill, you're getting a moderate level of exercise, meaning that your heart rate will be around 50 to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate. If you're running on the treadmill or walking up stairs, you're getting exercise at a vigorous level, meaning your heart rate will be between 70 and 85 percent of your maximum heart rate. The reason your heart rate is higher walking up stairs than walking on the treadmill with no incline is because it is more muscle-intensive for your body, according to a study published in the February 2016 edition of the Journal of Neurophysiology.