Dr. Campbell: Could climbing stairs be better than caffeine for an energy boost?

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Many of us turn to caffeine after a late night or difficult morning in order to boost our energy and productivity. Now, a new study indicates that walking a flight or two of steps may be just as effective — and healthier.


1. Tell us about this study that compared caffeine with walking steps to boost energy and motivation in the morning

The study looked at female college students aged 18-23 who reported chronic sleep deprivation.

The subjects completed tests that assessed their working memory, attention, reaction time, work motivation, and mood states under two separate conditions – one after taking a caffeine tablet and one after walking steps for 10 minutes. The team found that under the stair-walking condition, participants reported greater motivation to work and an increase in energy, compared with those under the caffeine condition.

The researchers concluded that sleep-deprived adults who walked up and down stairs at a regular pace for just 10 minutes actually felt more energized and motivated than those who consumed 50 milligrams of caffeine – the equivalent to one can of soda or a cup of coffee.

2. Why do you think this works?

When we exercise we release endorphins — chemicals in the brain that can make us feel happy and content. Endorphins also block pain signals and allow us to push through and continue exercise. In addition, we stimulate blood flow to the muscles as well as the brain and this can make us more alert and feel more awake. Also, when we exercise, our body releases other hormones such as cortisol which can make you feel much more alert and awake.

3. What do you recommend—should we replace the morning coffee for the stair master?

It is important to remember that this was a very small study—only 18 subjects. We must take these findings with a grain of salt. As with most things I suggest, moderation is important.

Caffeine has many benefits when taken in small amounts. Too much can have negative health effects. For me, a cup or two of coffee in the morning is just fine.

Exercise and walking has far reaching health benefits. If it helps you wake up in the morning and be more productive then certainly go for it. The most important thing is that you exercise at least 150 minutes a week in order to optimize your health.

To get in touch with Dr. Campbell, you can head to his website, Facebook page or message him on Twitter.

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