Stair-steppers can help you manage your weight.
As with other cardio machines -- such as treadmills -- you can adjust a stair-stepper's speed to help vary your workout intensity. But if you're looking for an average workout, keep in mind that there's no industry standard that sets the exact speed range for a stair-stepper, so there is no single average speed for the machines in general. As an individual exerciser, you must select a speed that's high enough to help you achieve your fitness goals, but not so intense that you risk sustaining an injury. All else being equal, stepping at a higher speed increases your workout's intensity and burns more calories.
Stair Stepping Speeds
Stair stepper speed ranges typically run up to 174 steps per minute. In his book, вЂњClimbing: Training for Peak Performance,вЂќ Clyde Soles terms 100 steps per minute a вЂњhigh cadence,вЂќ so an average exerciser should begin at fewer than 100 steps per minute. To look at it another way, an average stair-stepper workout is the equivalent of taking 260 steps per minute on a flat surface, according to the Vermont Department of Health. Additionally, taking 8-inch-high steps at a rate of 30 steps per minute requires 6.9 times more oxygen than to remain at rest, according to "NSCA's Essentials of Personal Training."
Use Good Form
No matter how fast you move on a stair-stepper, use the correct form to get the most from your workout and to help avoid injuries. Maintain an erect posture at all times without slouching forward. Keep your head up and your gaze in front of you. As you pump the pedals your hips should be above your legs -- rather than swaying laterally -- and your knees should stay behind your toes. Make your steps approximately 6.5 to 8 inches high with your feet remaining flat on the pedals. Don't let the step go all the way down or completely up, which can lead to a hip injury. For example, when you're performing a step with your right leg, push down with your left foot before your right foot hits bottom, and then press your right foot down before your left reaches the top.
Selecting Your Speed
Use the stair-stepper at a speed that matches your ability and fitness level. Begin with working at a moderate speed, which raises your heart rate a bit, and then add intensity. Listen to your body and judge the intensity level by how you feel. If you're aiming for a moderate workout, choose a speed that lets you talk normally but not sing, while you break a light sweat. To work vigorously you should be breathing much more heavily -- you'll be able to speak only a few words without stopping to breathe.
Begin all your workouts with five to 10 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise to warm up your muscles and lower your risk of injury. You can warm up on the stepper itself, by setting it at a low speed and moderate resistance level. Do a five-minute aerobic cool down at the end of your workout. Throughout your stair-stepping session, touch the side rails to maintain your balance, but don't rest your weight on them or you'll reduce your workout's intensity by about 20 percent. Remember that the stepper has no emergency cord to shut the machine off if you fall, so balance is important. Stair-stepping is a low-impact activity, but it's still a good idea to wear shoes with good support to protect your feet.