Who would have thunk that walking DOWN stairs would feel like exercise?
I mean I knew that walking down stairs had a tendency to exacerbate knee problems (which I believe is one of the reasons stair machines only go up), but I didn't realize how many muscles you use. . . well I didn't until yesterday's fire drill when we had to descend 23 flights, that is!
Today my legs are sore! Mostly my hamstrings, a little quad, a little glute. And! It hurts to climb up the stairs--that's when I feel those quads.
It was quite an experience. First of all, if I'd only been seconds faster, I would have been on the elevator going down to get a Starbucks. . . but nooo. . . I was seconds too late.
The alarm started going off and I could see this man standing wearing an orange vest holding the mechanical room door open. I said, "Did you do that?" He said yes and that it was a drill and we could decide ourselves what we wanted to do.
Well, I KNEW what I wanted to do--I wanted go back to my desk! Alas, two of my direct reports were standing right next to me so I also knew management would not take kindly to my less than a MizFit response!
So to the stairwell we went. Next, it turned out that somehow I was the one leading the pack. (There is only one floor above ours, and it's the same company.) Everyone was behind me. . .no one in sight in front of me. Not exactly my most comfortable situation, as in I had lots of free floating anxiety about my speed, noise of my breath filling my head. etc.
Comments were made about me leading the pack, and I offered in the most non defensive, even voice that people could come in front of me if they wanted. . .but no one did, so I guess I was moving steadily enough!
The first problem was (well besides the free-flowing anxiety, the awareness that I am so broad that it would be difficult in the narrow stairwell for someone to walk next to me, and the fact that my sleeve kept getting caught on the top of hand rail--all of which I'm pushing aside in the "oh well" category) that the stairs started to get this moire effect. . . so they look like they are moving a bit, and that made me a tad dizzy.
The next problem was when we got to the 5th floor, my legs started getting tired. . . (the woman behind me said she had "noodle" legs).
When we finally got outside, my shoulder hurt too from gripping the handrail to drag myself down obviously! YOWZA!
Then we had to walk down hill a few blocks to our meeting spot (and you know what it means if you walk down hill. . . you gotta come back. . .).
It turns our our little fire drill gave me at least 16 minutes of aerobic steps on my pedometer. (My pedometer is such that it logs aerobic steps after you've moved continuously for 10 minutes. So if you only walk 9 minutes, you get a 0 aerobic reading.)
When I told Trainer D, who I thought might tease me or feel sorry for me, she said, "HOLY S*--that's a lot of steps!! Good for you!! You might not have been able to do that last year." And it's scary and a tad humiliating to think so, but she may be right. . .I think my knee may have given out. Yeah for me!
So here are some stair descending facts--all sources may not be equally reliable:
- Climbing actual stairs (versus a stair climbing machine) applies the force of twice your body weight on the way UP. On the way down, it's the force of 7 times your body weight. ( http://www.fitstep.com/Library/Info/Cardio_equipment2.htm)
- Stair steppers don't do a great job of mimicking climbing real stairs, so there's little crossover effect. (http://yourtotalhealth.ivillage.com/diet-fitness/stair-climbing.html)
- Walking down stairs or even downhill reduces blood sugar levels more than walking uphill. (http://www.fitsugar.com/864075)
- As I thought, going down stairs can be hard on your knees--because it uses your leg muscles in "an eccentric or lengthened position"--and it's easier to trip. (http://www.fitsugar.com/864075)
- Walking down stairs can burn up to 388 calories/hour. (http://www.livestrong.com/thedailyplate)
- The intensity used for going down stairs is similar to the intensity of a brisk 4 km/hour walk. (http://www.eorthopod.com/public/patient_education/4557/no_time_for_exercise_take_the_stairs.html)
- To be safe when descending stairs or walking downhill, bend your knees when landing. Don't step down on a straight, locked knee. (http://www.healthline.com/blogs/exercise_fitness/2007/07/better-exercise-on-stairs.html)