Running a 10-minute mile burns about 95 calories.
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To lose a pound you must burn 3,500 calories more than you consume. Running stairs and running laps both burn a lot of calories, but exactly how many depends on how fast and how long you do either activity. Both exercises can be intense, making them uncomfortable to sustain for long periods of time but effective for weight loss.
Running stairs is an intense cardiovascular activity. For a 140-pound person, one minute of running stairs burns approximately 15 calories per minute, or 889 calories per hour. At that rate, it would take just under four hours to burn off one pound. Additionally, stair running offers a muscle-building advantage over running laps on a flat track. Every step requires you to lift your entire body upward, engaging your gluteal and hamstring muscles. This motion helps to maintain lean muscle in the lower body, which in turn burns more calories when your body is at rest.
The faster you run, the more calories you burn per minute. A person jogging a 12-minute mile -- or 5 miles per hour -- would burn 445 calories per hour, or about 7.4 calories per minute. At that pace, it would take nearly eight hours of running to lose one pound. As your speed around the track increases, so does the number of calories you burn. A 140-pound person running at an 8-minute-mile pace -- or 7.5 mph -- burns 730 calories per hour, or about 12 calories per minute. At that rate a one-pound loss would take just under five hours of running. To match the caloric burn of one hour of stair running, you would need to increase your running pace to a 6-minute-mile pace.
Because running stairs is so vigorous, it is unlikely that most people can do it continuously for an hour. One option may be to break up your stair running workout into intervals. For example, you may opt to run up the stairs quickly then walk down more slowly to allow your heart rate and muscles time to recover. Intervals may also be done by time, starting with 30 seconds of vigorous activity followed by 60 seconds of slower recovery. While doing intervals may burn fewer calories per minute than straight stair running, you will likely be able to do them for a longer time. The total caloric burn will be higher because of the longer duration. Another advantage of doing interval training is it will increase the number of calories you burn after your workout for up to 24 hours.
Comparing Stairs to Laps
Both running stairs and laps can be effective ways to burn calories and lose weight. If you solely look at calories burned, you would need to increase your speed on the track to 10 miles per hour to match the caloric burn of an hour of stair running. Any pace slower than that would give running stairs the advantage on weight loss. However, being able to sustain such a vigorous level of activity may make stair running or the equivalent pace on the track too hard for most people. Dividing these intense activities into intervals of work and recovery may be a more realistic way to incorporate them into your workout program. You may also consider running laps at a slower pace but for a longer duration to match the calorie burn you would achieve with stair running. Always consult with your physician before beginning any workout program.