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Question: You have discussed several different kinds of fitness machines, but I have not seen an article about stair-climbing machines. I use one at the fitness center where I go three times a week and really like it. Would you discuss the pros and cons of this type of exercise? Thank you.

Answer: Actually, any machine that requires the use of the large muscles of the hips and legs in a rhythmic, continuous type of activity will work beautifully for developing cardiovascular or aerobic endurance. Stair stepping does meet that requirement and does cause aerobic fitness changes.There are many different kinds of stair-stepping machines available, from the inexpensive lever-type systems using hydralic shock absorbers for resistance to very sophisticated units that allow you to program a workout to fit your level of fitness and body weight.

I spent the first week of June in Indianapolis, Ind., attending the American College of Sports Medicine annual meeting. The hotel we stayed in had several stair-stepping machines in their small fitness room. Because of your letter, I worked out each day on the stair-stepping machine to get a feel for this type of activity. Using the machine in that fitness center was similar to walking up a down escalator that was split in the center so that you could step with one leg at a time. Entering your weight allowed the machine to adjust the resistance of the steps. The workload was changed by increasing or decreasing the speed of the steps.

The workout could be varied a number of ways and the heart-rate monitor allowed me to see the effect of the workload on my body. I liked the low-impact nature of the exercise, and enjoyed working out in a cool room while watching TV. It is probably a good idea to vary the program each day so that you don't get bored, but I think this is an excellent way to get a workout.

Update: Fewer than 10 percent of all adults in America eat five servings a day of fruits and vegetables, and 10 percent have no servings on any given day. Because of these statistics, the National Cancer Institute and the Produce for Better Health Foundation have stressed the "Five a Day - for Better Health" program to encourage Americans to increase the consumption of fruits and vegetables from the average of 3.5 servings to five.

Studies show that eating fruits and vegetables decreases the risk of developing diet-related cancers and other chronic diseases. However, it does take a concerted effort to get the three vegetables and two fruits recommended by these groups.

I try to eat a fruit such as a banana, orange or grapefruit for breakfast and another with lunch or during the evening news. The vegetables are more difficult, but you can eat a handful of carrots with lunch and then cook two veggies (broccoli and cauliflower or peas and corn) to eat with your dinner meal.

However you fit this suggestion into your life, keep track for awhile to be sure you are accomplishing your goal.