Stair climbing

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Stair climbing is the climbing of a flight of stairs. It is often described as a "low-impact" exercise, often for people who have recently started trying to get in shape. A common exhortation in health pop culture is "Take the stairs, not the elevator". Robotic stairclimbers assist with transporting objects and packages up and down a flight of stairs. Stair descent is a motor-task that overcomes the obstacle of a multi-layered surface (stairs) beginning at a certain height and ending at a lower landing. Mastering stair descent involves motor-skill, perceptual understanding of height, and proper strategy involved in descending. Descent requires walkers to maintain support on one leg, while swinging the other leg and bending the support leg to compensate for the level change.(Andriacchi et al., 1980; McFadyen & Winter, 1988)

Energy expenditure[edit]

In one study based on mean oxygen uptake and heart rate, researchers estimated that ascending a 15 cm (5.9 inches) step expends 0.46 kJ (0.11 kcal) for the average person, and descending a step expends 0.21 kJ (0.05 kcal). The study concluded that stair-climbing met the minimum requirements for cardiorespiratory benefits, and considered stair-climbing suitable for promotion of physical activity.[1]

Competitive sport[edit]

Stair climbing has developed into an organized sport. Every year several stair climbing races are held around the world with the competitors running up the stairs of some of the world's tallest buildings and towers (e.g., the Empire State Building, Gran Hotel Bali), or on outside stairs such as the Niesenbahn Stairway. World class athletes from the running and cycling worlds regularly compete in such events. Some have specialized exclusively in stair climbing races. Prizes, awards, and other accolades are given for the top performers by gender and age group. Stair climbing is one of the most grueling of sports, requiring competitors to move their entire body weight vertically, as well as horizontally. The results of more than 160 races on all continents are evaluated each year for the Towerrunning World Cup. The most important - about 18 so called "Masters Races" - have a predefined factor of 1.5 to 2.5, whereas all other races are given 0.4, 0.7 or 1 depending on class and internationality of the participants. 2010 World Cup winners were Melissa Moon (NZL) and Thomas Dold (GER). 2011 winners are Dold (3rd time) and Cristina Bonacina (ITA). The World Cup Final 2012 will be hosted on December 8 in Bogota (COL).

An annual competition, 'Girnar Arohan Spardha', is held in Junagadh, India, and involves a race to climb and descend the steps of the Girnar mountain.


Falling down a flight of stairs or just a couple of steps is very common during infants’ first exposure to stair descent. Infants are more likely to fall down stairs than any other age group.[2] Approximately 73,000 children between the ages of 6 months and 2 years have reported injury on stairs or steps in 2009.[3]

Strategies involved[edit]

Stair descent involves perceptual, cognitive and motor abilities (Seigler, 2007). Stair descent relies heavily on visual information for balance and accuracy. Seeing the obstacle ahead is a plus, but for infants the action of keeping their heavy head balanced enough to look down at their feet and the objective together, make it exceptionally difficult. (Hurlke, 1998). Not seeing the task ahead causes confusion and disrupts concentration of the goal ahead. There are several strategies that are closely associated with stair descent that help infants navigate such an un-natural obstacle. Scooting (involves the infants sitting on the step and thrusting forward using their bottoms to land on the next step) Backing (involves the act of turning 180 degrees to counter the motion of climbing, and slowly lowering one foot at a time to descend to the lower step) Backing distributes the weight evenly on all four limbs, but this creates a problem for vision. Walking (in an upright position facing the bottom of the stair case, lowering one foot at a time to the next step)

Prior developments[edit]

Prior literature on stair climbing established limited norms for the onset of motor milestones. Prior to these learnings, stair climbing was viewed like any other motor milestone; a universal skill acquired through development. A study developed to show the typical age onset for stair ascent and descent, the onset of ascent and descent relative to other milestones, and the stair climbing strategies that infants use to manage biomechanical limitations depict an in depth overview on when and how this phenomenon is achieved. This study consisted of 732 infants, procedures consisted of parent assessment and documentation of motor skill achievements along with an in depth interview with parents of strategies involved and child assessment in the lab’s stair apparatus. Results from this show younger children were unable to go up or down stairs at all (<9months) or were only able to go up. By approximately 13 months most infants could go upstairs and about half can ascend and descend stairs. Comparing the onset ages for each milestone, results also showed that infants learned to descend stairs typically after they have already learned to ascend, however only about 12% achieved both stair-climbing skills at the same time (Berger et al, 2007). An interpretation of stair-climbing milestones relative to loco-motor milestones suggests on average, infants learned to crawl and cruise before learning to ascend stairs independently. Walking onset was learned after ascent, but came before independent stair descent (Berger et al, 2007). Although most of the infants had prior stair experience, exposure isn’t necessary every day. The presence or absence of stairs in the home did not influence the onsets of crawling, cruising or stair descent. But prior experience did show the time lag between first learning to ascend and descend were significantly lower than infants without prior experience. Furthermore, differences in housing types created a suburban advantage. Suburban advantage is defined infants living in suburban neighborhoods learned to climb up and down stairs at younger ages than infants living in urban areas. Sliding backwards feet first is the safest approach to descending stairs due to the fact that the midline of the body is closer to the stair case providing an even weight distribution on all four limbs. Compared to crawling, where most of the weight is on the arms and knees. This might explain why it is exceptionally difficult for older patients to descend stairs, because their midline is so far way due to longer arms and legs. Other research suggests that infants’ descent strategies may be related to their cognitive abilities (Adolph, 1997). This is why most parents teach their children to back down stairs, even though it’s the safest it is also the most cognitively difficult descent strategy.


  • On 25 June 2011, Chris Solarz climbed Three Logan Square 55 times in 11 hours, 57 minutes for a total of 33,000 ft (10.06 km).[4]
  • From 5–6 October 2007, Kurt Hess climbed Esterli Tower in Switzerland 413 times in less than 24 hours for a total of 18.585 km (60,974 ft).[5]


  1. ^
  2. ^ National Safe Kids Campaign, 2004; Young, Torner, Schmitt, Peek-Asa, 2011
  3. ^ U. S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, 2010
  4. ^
  5. ^

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