Start climbing, ladies.
Stairs are your new best friend, especially if you’re a postmenopausal woman.
A recent study published by the North American Menopause Society (NAMS) shows that stair climbing not only lowers blood pressure but also builds leg strength.
That’s especially important for postmenopausal women with estrogen deficiencies who are more susceptible to vascular and muscle problems.
It’s important to identify the right form of exercise to achieve the desired benefits without creating additional health problems for older women, suggests NAMS.
High-intensity resistance training, for example, can be effective for reducing age-related loss of muscle strength in postmenopausal women.
The problem is that it can also increase blood pressure in middle-aged adults with prehypertension or hypertension.
This risk can be offset by combining aerobic and resistance training, but that usually means gym memberships and making public appearances in lycra.
Or, as NAMS puts it, ‘real and perceived barriers include lack of time, money, nearby fitness facilities, poor weather, and a sense of embarrassment.”
But the good news is that stair climbing, in contrast, offers the benefits of aerobic and resistance exercise for improving cardiorespiratory fitness and leg muscle strength in postmenopausal women without their having to leave home or pay a fee.
Even better, it offers the additional benefits of fat loss, improved lipid profiles, and reduced risk of osteoporosis.
Before this study, stair climbing had not been evaluated for its effects on blood pressure and arterial stiffness, which is a thickening and stiffening of the artery wall.
The study participants were Korean postmenopausal women who trained four days a week, climbing 192 steps two to five times a day. The results showed that stair climbing led to reductions in arterial stiffness and blood pressure and increases in leg strength in hypertensive postmenopausal women.
“This study demonstrates how simple lifestyle interventions such as stair climbing can be effective in preventing or reducing the negative effects of menopause and age on the vascular system and leg muscles of postmenopausal women with hypertension,” said Dr. JoAnn Pinkerton, NAMS executive director.