On Wednesday night, 666 people (seriously) put themselves through their own form of hell by taking the long way to the top of one the tallest buildings in the world when they scaled the Empire State Building from its stairwell. That’s 1,576 steps and 86 flights of hamstring- and gluteal-writhing agony all the way to the building’s glowing observation deck.
Runners ranged from guys like Thomas Dold—a German who won in a time of 10:38 for his seventh consecutive year—to firefighters (in full gear) walking up for charity.
Obviously we aren’t about to recommend trying something like this unless you have a bizarre running bucket-list, but the good news is you don’t have to slog up 86 flights to reap benefits from working out on stairs.
In a British Journal of Sports Medicine study, sedentary people who walked a 199-step staircase for 8 weeks at least twice a day 5 days a week—a daily total of about 10 minutes of climbing—increased their VO2max (a measure of aerobic fitness) by 17 percent compared to a control group.
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