Why You Get Winded Walking Up Steps (Even If You’re Fit)




You can run a 5K with ease, breeze through a spinning class, and push through a weightlifting session at the gym…yet you still get winded climbing a flight of stairs!  Is that normal?  Does it mean you’re out of shape?


The good news is that it’s totally normal–and no, it does not mean you’re out of shape.  Simply put, you’ve just elevated your heart rate and need a little more oxygen.  So unless you’re specifically training by doing a staircase workout, a quick burst of energy can leave you short of breath.




Climbing a flight of stairs uses more muscles than the simple act of walking.  After all, you’re essentially doing lunges uphill and fighting gravity in the process.  So realistically, a move like that might be slightly more advanced than most people’s fitness level.  As any good Physical Therapist will tell you, once a workout becomes too easy then you will need to add intensity if you want to keep seeing progress.  At the new level of difficulty, you’ll be challenged again.






Another possible culprit to those of you who are fit?  If you’re already working out vigorously to train for a strenuous event such as a full or half marathon, getting up a flight of stairs is simply contributing to your already heavy workload.  Running up 15 steps, as opposed to running 15 paces on flat ground, combines an aerobic activity with a strength activity.  So even if you’re in top-notch physical condition, that’s going to get you out of breath fairly quickly.


The bottom line?  Make sure to incorporate lower body strengthening exercises like squats, forward lunges, reverse lunges, and step-ups into your workouts to help mimic the motion of going up steps.  Begin with your own body weight, then eventually add 15, 30, or even 40 pounds.  Then when you do walk up a flight of stairs it’ll be a lot easier since you’ll be more conditioned for it.  So go ahead and breathe a sigh of relief…as soon as you get to the top, that is!


As always, if you or someone you know needs some guidance in how to start an exercise program or progress one to stay active, call me at (302)691-9055 or visit my website at www.wildermanphysicaltherapy.com to schedule your FREE 30 minute Discovery Visit to see how Physical Therapy can help. Don’t delay–schedule now!