You've got it right -- staircases. They're the cheap alternatives to steppers (in fact, they don't cost anything), and the best thing about them is you can do your cardio any time of the day.
Athletes have been performing stadium bleacher runs since time immemorial. It improves their cardiovascular stamina and promotes their muscular endurance -- two things that are necessary for competitive games that last for hours.
For your part, stair climbing gives nearly the same benefits, but on a scale that's just right for you.
The Benefits Of Stair Climbing
This activity is low-impact and safe for as long as you strictly observe the safety rules outlined below. It uses the muscles of the buttocks and the quadriceps (front of the thigh) muscles. It also gives your heart a super workout because you're literally carrying your weight as you work against gravity.
Stair climbing is time efficient as it burns an unbelievable 300 calories in 30 minutes, depending on your pace and body weight.
This could be just the answer to our many alibis to keep from doing routines, such as "dogs chase me at the park," or "the smog outside is just terrible"!
When Is The Best Time To Stair Climb?
If you're using your office stairs, it's better to do this activity after work as you'll be all sweaty and exhausted. However, if you're utilizing your apartment building staircase, early in the morning would be great!
Warming Up And Cooling Down
Walk around your apartment or office for about five minutes prior to tackling the stairs. You should also stretch your calves, quads, and hamstrings to avoid tearing.
On the first week, do the following for 10-15 minutes: Climb 2 flights and then march in place or walk around the entire floor for a couple of minutes to avoid "burning" thigh muscles or shortness of breath. Add five minutes every week to this routine until you're finally able to climb the entire flight without needing to march in place or walk around the floor to catch your breath.
Safety Precautions For Stair Climbing
Wear shoes with good support -- the best ones are aerobic or cross-training shoes.
Running shoes are not recommended because they don't give enough lateral support.
Make sure that the stairwell is well-lit and well-ventilated.
Drink enough water before, during, and after the workout.
Discontinue the session as soon as you feel any of the following: nausea, dizziness, heart palpitation, and disorientation, among others.
Alternate this activity with other forms of cardio so as to prevent overuse injury (caused by impacting the same bones and muscles over and over again).
Contrary to popular belief, your knees are more stressed coming down than they are going up because of your reflex of "putting on the brakes," just as the downhill part of mountain climbing is more dangerous. You may want to take the elevator on the way back if you're just beginning.
Assume the proper stance: Lean forward a bit from the hips and keep your back straight. Never slouch while stair climbing.
Don't climb with heels hanging off the edge of the step as you'll risk injuring your Achilles tendon. Instead, place your entire foot on each step.
Never climb a totally desolate area of the building! In the unlikely event of an accident, make sure that you can be heard if you cry out for help.
According to the New Zealand government website, http://www.nhc.govt.nz, stair climbing as an exercise can hold its own against the more established routines such as running and bicycling. A study has concluded that stair climbing is better than these two when considering "the most vigorous exercise in the shortest period possible".