Did you know it may actually be better for you to walk down the stairs then up. This type of exercise is called eccentric exercise as opposed to concentric which is when you walk upwards.

The same applies to running up a hill, it may be better to go downhill instead.

Why Walking Down the Stairs is better?

In a report by BBC Science magazine biomechanics professor at University of Northampton Tony Kay all forms of exercise create microscopic damage to the muscles. This stimulates the release of hormones which trigger your cells to rebuild the muscle to make it stronger than before. Concentric exercises like bicep curls and squats recruit and fatigue many different muscle fibres.

Although the eccentric part seems easier as we lower the weight or sink down into a squat, it does so with a load that is four times higher. This creates far greater microscopic damage to cells and fibres.

“The greater damage means the body burns more calories in the process of repair and recovery after the exercise has been performed. This raises the metabolic rate and increases strength in a far more effective way than conventional forms of exercise,” said Kay.

According to one study, volunteers were randomly asked to walking either up or down a flight of stairs in a 10 storey building twice a week. The group who walked down rather than up ended up with greater improvements in resting heart rate. They also had more improvement in insulin sensitivity and blood fat levels.

The group walking down the stairs actually saw more improvement in muscle function and bone density than those walking up, the easier task resulted in an improvement in muscle strength by 34%.

In another study it was found that in older people those doing eccentric exercise had a 38% improvement in leg strength compare to just 8% in the typical exercise group.

Even in young healthy footballers eccentric exercise show a 30 to 50 per cent increase in strength. “The effects are far, far greater than we would expect from normal exercise,” said Kay.

Why is this so?

Basically when you are going down hill or down the stairs the muscles in your legs or arms lengthen. The same thing happens when you lower a set of weights, the muscles lengthen and have to work harder to protect your body from damage.

In fact Kay says that both yoga and Pilates require eccentric contraction which “increases flexibility, muscle mass, bone density and strength.”

The best part is eccentric exercises help you burn calories even after your workout – much more than a ‘harder’ workout. What a wonderful metabolic secret to find out!

The above information is part of Dr Michael Mosley’s new book titled Just One Thing

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