"The stairs test is an easy way to check your heart health," says study author Dr Jesús Peteiro, a cardiologist at University Hospital A Coruña, Spain.
On the verge of collapse by the second or third flight? "If it takes you more than one-and-a-half minutes to ascend four flights of stairs, your health is suboptimal, and it would be a good idea to consult a doctor," Peteiro adds.
The study was designed to examine the relationship between a daily activity, such as stair climbing and fitness results gleaned from more traditional, lab-based exercise testing. Participants had previously displayed symptoms of coronary heart disease, such as chest pain or shortness of breath during exercise.
Initially the researchers had the participants walk or run on a treadmill, gradually increasing the intensity until exhaustion. Exercise capacity was measured as metabolic equivalents (METs). After resting for 20 minutes, patients then climbed four flights of stairs (60 stairs) at a fast pace without stopping, but without running.
Results of the METs achieved during exercise testing and the stairs were compared, with patients who climbed the stairs in less than 40-45 seconds achieving more than 9-10 METs. Scoring 10 METs during an exercise test is linked with a low mortality rate (1 per cent or less per year, or 10 per cent in 10 years). In contrast, patients who took 1.5 minutes or longer to climb the stairs achieved less than 8 METs, or a mortality rate of 2-4 per cent per year, or 30 per cent in 10 years.
Needless to say, regularly taking the stairs is likely to improve results on both tests. Think of it as your stairway to (heart) heaven... sorry, we had to.