How many calories does climbing stairs burn? (Calculator)

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I work from home in a small office up one flight of stairs from the main floor of our house. 

So I’m constantly going up and down the stairs for bathroom breaks, lunch, or just to stretch my legs. I’ll even make up reasons to go up and down the stairs just so I can burn a few extra calories!

But I often find myself wondering: How many calories does climbing one flight of stairs actually burn?

My office is up one flight of about 13 steps, but yours might be up 100 stairs or even 1000 stairs. Obviously, burning those calories is a much better workout than standing on an elevator or escalator, but how good of a workout is it really?

It’s probably less than you think…

Let’s find out! (And scroll down for a nifty calculator that will tell you almost exactly how many calories you burn every time you take the stairs).

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How to calculate calories burned climbing stairs

To figure out how many calories we burn on the stairs, we have to know one simple value: the MET, or Metabolic Equivalent of Task.

The MET isn’t specific to climbing stairs; it’s just a general value for any physical activity that measures how much energy it takes to do it in terms of metabolic rate and oxygen consumption.

The simplest reference point for MET is this: Sitting quietly is 1 MET; more or less the resting metabolic rate, and 1 MET is equal to burning about 1 kcal per kg of bodyweight per hour.

Here are some other METs for reference:

  • Sleeping = .9 MET (lowest)

  • Writing/Typing = 1.5 MET

  • Slow walking = 2.3 MET

  • Fast walking = 2.9 MET

  • Sex! = 5.8 MET

  • Jogging = 7.0 MET

  • Sprinting = 23 MET (highest)

To turn METs into calories burned, the formula is really simple:

 

Calories burned = METs x Weight (kg) x Time (hours)

 

Climbing stairs has a MET of about 4, so if you know about how long it takes you to climb a set of stairs, you can easily figure out how many calories you burn doing so.

 


Example: How many calories do I burn climbing one flight of stairs?**

Math! Let’s do it:

Let’s say you weight 150 pounds, and you want to know how many calories you burn from climbing one normal sized flight of stairs: about 13 steps or so.

First, we need to convert your weight to kilograms:

1 lb = 0.453592 kg -> 150 lbs = 68 kg

Now we need the time spent doing the activity:

I just timed this out myself, actually, and at a normal pace, it took me about 7 or 8 seconds to climb 13 stairs.

8 seconds = 8/60 of a minute = 0.13 minutes = 0.13/60 of an hour = .002222 hours

Now let’s use our formula to find out how many calories we burn climbing one flight of stairs:


 

Calories burned = METS (4) x Weight (68kg) x Time (.00222 hours)

Calories burned climbing one flight of stairs = .6


 

There you have it. The average person will burn somewhere between half a calorie and one calorie climbing a normal sized flight of stairs.

That really doesn’t sound like a lot, but remember, that’s only 7 or 8 seconds worth of work! And it’s 4 times what you would have burned just sitting on your bum.

**This is just a rough estimate based on the available information.


 

Here are some quick calculations that might make you feel better

Again, these are based on a 150 pound person… If you weigh more, you’ll burn more calories climbing stairs:

  • Calories burned climbing 100 stairs: 4.6

  • Calories burned climbing 150 stairs: 6.9

  • Calories burned climbing 1000 stairs: 46

  • Calories burned climbing stairs for 10 minutes: 45.3

  • Calories burned climbing stairs for 30 minutes: 136


 

Walking up the stairs is just the beginning! You can also jog, run, or carry stuff up stairs to burn more calories.

You can plug the following MET values into our handy formula to figure out how changing your approach to stair climbing will increase your calorie burn. Give it a try!

  • Carrying 1 to 15 lb = 5 MET

  • Carrying 16 to 24 lb = 6 MET

  • Carrying 25 to 49 lb = 8 MET

  • Climbing stairs quickly = 8.8 MET

  • Running up stairs = 15 MET

Example: A 150 pound person running up one normal flight of stairs (should take about 3 seconds) will burn roughly .85 calories.


 

Oh my God, I can’t math anymore! Just give me the calculator, will ya?

Sure! Here’s a simple calculator for how many calories you burn climbing stairs.

Just put in your weight in pounds, how fast you’re going up the stairs, and for roughly how long, and viola! The calculator will tell you (roughly) how many calories you’ll burn.

Neat, huh?

How many calories do you burn climbing stairs?



Calories burned

And don’t forget the formula if you want to experiment with other forms of calorie burning:

Calories burned = METS x Weight (kg) x Time (hours)

It’s that simple!

Hope this helps šŸ™‚ And if you find an error with my math, please let me know in the comments below!

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Calories from stairs FAQ

What burns more calories, stairs vs walking?

Going up stairs definitely burns more calories than flat walking, but maybe not as much as you’d think.

Going by the MET values listed above (a simple approximation for the caloric burn of an activity), walking up stairs burns somewhere around 1.5-2 times as many calories as just walking, depending on the speed of each activity.

You can experience this yourself next time you’re at the gym. Walk for 10 minutes or so at a moderate clip on the treadmill and take note of the calorie count, then spend 10 minutes on the stair stepper machine and compare the numbers.

(Though calorie counts on cardio machines are known to be pretty inaccurate, you can still get an idea).

Is stair climbing good for weight loss?

Yes, definitely.

The key thing to remember about weight loss is that the primary driver is your net energy, or calories in versus calories out (CICO). There many be other factors, but overall if you eat in a calorie deficit on a consistent basis, you will lose weight.

Climbing stairs, whether in long stretches at the gym on a machine, or just taking the stairs every once in a while vs the elevator, can help you increase your overall energy burned throughout the day.

If you’re on top of your eating and nutrition, climbing stairs can help you maintain a solid calorie deficit and help promote weight loss.

It’s important to note that just walking up stairs won’t burn fat on its own. You have to eat properly for that to happen, but exercise will definitely help you along. It’s also really great for your overall health and fitness, which is even more important than weight loss.

Is going up and down stairs bad for your knees?

On the contrary, climbing stairs can actually help build the muscles around the knee that help stabilize it, as well as strengthening some of the ligaments and cartilage in the area. Stairs are on of the recommended rehab activities for bad knees.

Though you should consult your doctor if you have specific joint or knee issues, because too much stair climbing could exacerbate certain problems.

It’s also important that if you have achey knees that you avoid climbing or going down stairs too fast. A nice slow clip is going to be much lower impact and far better at protecting and rebuilding your knee area.

How many stairs per flight?

It really all depends, and it especially depends on the style of building you’re in. (Stairs in tall office building or underground subway platforms, for example, can be quite long).

But in most standard residential buildings, a flight of stairs will usually have 12 or 13 steps.


16 thoughts on “How many calories does climbing stairs burn? (Calculator)

  1. Hey Evan! Found you while searching for information about calories burned per stair. I appreciate the formula/math based approach, but I feel like it can’t be right! šŸ™‚

    Today, I hiked the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook here in Los Angeles eight times.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Culver_City_Stairs

    It has 282 stairs. I weigh 175 pounds currently. My fitness tracker says I did 173 flights of stairs: https://imgur.com/a/xm8go

    At least 1.6 of the miles in the ‘walking and running distance’ comes from my walk there and back from my house.

    According to the formula you use in this post, I burned 103.8 calories over the course of the three hours I went up and down the stairs. Or a little more because I’m 175 instead of 150.

    I’m still hunting for the best way to determine calories burned per stair or per flight, but I don’t think this one is it.

    • Hey Bill! Sorry for the delay in responding.

      Hmm… Are you sure? I plugged your numbers into the formula… 175lbs, Walking up stairs, and (I only made the calculator go up to 60 minutes), and it gave me 300 calories. Doing it for 180 minutes (or around 3 hours) should be around 900 calories.

  2. This formula is incorrect. If someone takes 2 hours to climb the same 10 steps the formula will make it appear they burned more calories. I guess the time should be inverse. Faster you climb the higher the calorie.

    • Hey Vivek! Not sure about that. Keep in mind the MET for walking is different than the MET for running, which is over 3x more.

      Doing anything for 2 hours vs doing it for just a few seconds will burn more calories just by the sheer calorie burn it takes to keep your body functioning that long.

      If you’re talking about going quickly up steps, try using 15 for the MET.

  3. I have checked numerous articles and calculators on this topic. One thing that seems to be missing in the calculation is the fatigue factor that kicks in when you keep going higher floors. Assume if to take one floor 1 calorie is burnt, does it mean 10 calorie is burnt for 10 floors? Wont more calories be burnt when you are exhausted and continue to climb? What about the gravity factor?

    • Interesting thought, Som. But I don’t think that’s how it works. When an activity gets harder, it’s because you’re running low on energy and/or your muscles are fatigued, not because you’re doing more "work" and burning more calories.

      It’s possible that your body reaches a higher operating level once its been active for a while and burns a few more calories, but I suspect it’s a minimal difference and not worth factoring in.

  4. This calculator is wrong. There’s no way I can burn twice as many calories walking with no incline in the same amount of time. Evan, you’re dumb.

    • When was the last time you walked on a flat treadmill at a medium pace, say 3mph? It really doesn’t burn calories very fast. 10 minutes of flat walking is only going to burn 30 calories or so.

  5. You forgot the AFTERBURN !!!!!!!
    The total calories burned = L. So, joule transformed in calories with an efficiency of 20%. So,
    calories burned = L X 5 joules >>> calories
    For example: climbing 1 m
    L = force X distance
    L = mgh = 90 Kg X 9.8 X 1m = 882 J
    882 X 5 = 4410 J
    1 J = 0.000239 Kcal
    L = 4410 J X 0.000239 = 1.05 Kcal
    90 Kg climbing 1 m is about 1 Kcal per total with after burn.

  6. The work {\displaystyle W} W done by a constant force of magnitude {\displaystyle F} F on a point that moves a displacement {\displaystyle s} s in a straight line in the direction of the force is the product

    {\displaystyle W=Fs} {\displaystyle W=Fs}

    >>>>
    burned calories = W X 5
    because of the 20% efficiency of the human body.
    80% calories are transformed in warm (dissipation).
    Yes, I know, few people accept the correlation between mecanical work and burned calories, but the science is only one. Energy = mecanical work = joules or calories. And, I insist, per total with after burn!
    So, you can calculate the mecanical work and then multiply by 5.

  7. You must understand that the time and the speed are not in the mecanical work formula. But only force and distance, so, weight and the level difference.
    W = mgh

  8. "The Compendium of Physical Actives" for 2011 puts says that "walking, 2.0 mph, level, slow pace, firm surface" is a MET of 2.8 while "Walking, 3.5 mph, level, brisk, firm surface, walking for exercise" is a 4.3.
    "Stair climbing, slow pace" is a MET 4 while "Stair climbing, fast pace" is a MET 8.8.
    I think this is all important for reference because walking up the stairs slowly and walking a little faster than normal have the same MET. But if you’re walking up the steps to go somewhere, you’re not walking slowly, you’re walking quickly.
    I like to walk up the stairs at work during my break, its 8 flights and took me about 2.5 minutes to get to the top and I calculated that it took me about .6 seconds a step (same as you). When I stopped at the top landing I measured my heart rate at 160bpm. That’s around the same heart rate I have while I’m running.
    Because of this I would say that for most anyone who’s walking up the steps to actually go somewhere, the MET they should use is 8 or greater unless they’re walking so slowly, their heart rate isn’t raised any higher than what it was while they were walking to the steps.

  9. Height of flight of steps = 3.2m (my house)
    Mass = 100kg (my fat ass)
    gravity = 9.8 m/s^2
    Force = 980 Newtons (M*g)
    Work = 3136 Joules (F*D)
    Body Efficiency = 20% (internet)
    Joules/KCal = 4180
    Calories for hauling my fat ass up a flight of steps: 3.8
    Flights to burn a pound of fat = 933 or 1.9 miles in altitude climbed.

    10 extra flights climbed per day per year = 3.9lbs of fat per year, or an extra

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