Fitness / Stair Climber

Stair Climber vs. Incline Walking: Which is Better?

Both workouts seem to do the same thing, but is one better than the other?

Both the treadmill and stair climber maintain dedicated followings and strong presences on every gym floor. While the stair climber is well-known for its lower body focus, the treadmill can also offer some serious glute toning and targeting.

We broke down both machines and their effects on the lower body. Keep reading to find out which machine is best for you.

Stair Climber

What is it?

A stair climber is a cardio machine consisting of either two foot pedals or a set or revolving stairs. Basically, you work out by stepping as the machine moves or by lifting and pushing against the force of gravity.

You can make your workout more challenging than its basic function by upping your speed and adding in variations.

With Aaptiv you can give your stair climber workouts an exciting twist. Learn more here.

What are the benefits?

If you’ve ever lived in a walk-up building, you know that climbing stairs can be quite exhausting. The stair climber has a similar heart-rate building effect – read the latest research on fat burning here.

It puts your heart rate into high gear right away as it works your cardiovascular system and directly targets your lower body muscles.

Because of that, the stair climber is lauded for its muscle-building benefits. The repeated use of your calves, thighs, quads, hamstrings, glutes, and core to lift your body effectively strengthens and shapes these areas—all at once.

The stair climber also generally places more weight on your quads than a treadmill, making it a killer upper-leg workout.

Studies show that climbing the stairs is also more effective in terms of improving heart and lung health than the stair climber.

Should I use it?

A stair climber is a low-impact machine, making it ideal for those with leg injuries and joint issues. However, be cautious if you have knee problems.

You can put additional stress on your knees if you let them bend beyond your toes. Otherwise, the machine is versatile and approachable.

It may seem intimidating at first, but the repetitive stair-stepping motion is something that’s actually quite common to users. So, you’ll likely take to the machine easier than you realize.

Choose the stair climber if you’re primarily looking for an effective, low-impact workout that targets your lower body and core and gets your heart rate up.

Treadmill Incline Walking

What is it?

We’re all familiar with the treadmill. Upping the incline even slightly can target different muscles that you would simply walking or jogging on a flat surface.

An incline can stimulate hills and terrain changes that come with outdoor walking or running. Most treadmills increase in height from 0 to 15 percent.

A few specialty treadmills can lift all the way to 35 percent.

What are the benefits?

Like many treadmill workouts, incline walking is a cardiovascular kicker. You can achieve similar cardiovascular benefits from incline walking as stair climbing.

Whether incline walking burns more calories than stair climbing depends on a few things. These include your weight, fitness level, and the intensity of your workouts.

Generally speaking, cardio workouts on the treadmill elevate your heart rate into the fat burning zone. So, you can expect a solid calorie burn from incline walking. This will vary depending on the height and speed of your workout.

Walking uphill also has a few major muscle benefits. Walking on an incline can help strengthen your backside, calves, thighs, and glutes. In fact, incline walking is actually the better option if you’re looking to tone up your glutes.

Studies show that using a stair climber activates 24 percent of your gluteus maximus while walking on a flat treadmill activates 24.3 percent. This, of course, increases with an incline.

Should I use it?

While the stair climber and treadmill are both beginner-friendly, walking on a treadmill may feel more intuitive. There isn’t as much change in weight or need for rhythmic climbing on the treadmill.

Unfortunately, the treadmill is higher impact than the stair climber. This is especially true as you increase the speed.

If you don’t have any leg injuries and joint issues, the treadmill is a safe bet for you. Otherwise, the stair climber may be your best bet.

Looking for treadmill workouts? View a sample here.

So, which one is better?

All in all, fitness workouts on both machines will effectively strengthen and target your lower body. So, it all comes down to preference.

We recommend trying both stair climber workouts and incline walking workouts to make a choice. Consider your any injuries or discomfort in your lower body.

If a low-impact workout is better for you, definitely stick to the stair climber. But if you’re free to work out without any major pain issues, use both.

Balance your week of workouts with exercise on the stair climber and treadmill. Cardio cross-training reduces the chances of injury, boredom, and exercise plateau.

Not sure if Aaptiv is for you? Take our fitness quiz to learn more.

Fitness Stair Climber


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