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Step Aside, Coffee—Stair Climbing May Be a Better Boost

If you’re sleep-deprived, you may reach for a coffee or soda to keep you going. But is caffeine really the best way to perk up? Research suggests it might not be, finding that a short bout of stair climbing might be a better way. The study, published in Physiology & Behavior, included 18 college-aged women who were chronically sleep-deprived, averaging less than 45 hours of sleep per week. The participants were moderately physically active and regularly consumed between 40 and 400 mg of caffeine per day.

Researchers divided the women into three treatment groups: the first group sat for 20 minutes, and then did low- to moderate-intensity stair walking for 10 minutes; the second group took a 50 mg caffeine capsule, and then sat for 30 minutes; and the third group took a placebo capsule containing flour, and then sat for 30 minutes. The trial was performed three times, and, each time, the women were assigned to a different treatment group, ensuring that every woman experienced all three interventions. Before and after each trial, the women reported on certain aspects of their mood, including energy, working memory, attention span, reaction time, and motivation to complete cognitive tasks. Researchers found that:

  • Women reported feeling more energized after ten minutes of stair walking than they did after taking 50 mg of caffeine or placebo.
  • There were no other associations between the treatments and reported moods.

This preliminary study suggests that exercise might be a better energy booster than low-dose caffeine in some people, and highlights the need for more research to help us better understand the relationship between physical activity and energy. In the meantime, getting exercise throughout the day is great for your health, even in small increments. So, don’t skip the stairs for the elevator—and if it also helps you feel energetic, all the better!

Source: Physiology & Behavior

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