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Many stair climbers keep track of the number of steps you've climbed.
Once the darling of gyms everywhere, stair climbing machines dimmed in popularity as elliptical trainers came to the forefront. But you'll still find some variation on a stair climber in most well-equipped gyms. The bad news is that while most of these machines can tell you how many steps you've climbed or how many flights of stairs you've gone up, they usually don't convert your stairs climbed into overall distance. There's a reason for that - the conversion is an inexact science at best - but with a little flexibility, you can at least come up with a reasonable estimate.
Calculating Miles From Inches
For one of the most direct conversions from stairs climbed into distance, consider the typical 17-inch rise per stair. A mile, in turn, is 63,360 inches. If you divide the number of inches in a mile by the rise (in inches) per stair, you get:
63,360 inches/mile Г· 17 inches/stair = 3,727 stairs per mile
It gets a little trickier when you try to convert from stairs climbed to flights of stairs. With typical estimates of stairs per flight ranging anywhere from 10 to 24, that gives you the wide range of anywhere from 155 flights of stairs to 373 flights of stairs to equal 1 mile climbed. That's roughly equivalent to climbing the stairs in the Empire State Building two to four-and-a-half times.
Elite runners from around the world typically take 10 to 12 minutes to go up the stairs in the Empire State Building just once, whereas elite runners can routinely run a mile on normal ground in 5 or 6 minutes - so, while this conversion runs true in the literal sense, it obviously doesn't translate accurately in terms of subjective effort or objective work done.
The Pedometer Approach
The humble pedometer (or the fitness tracker of your choice) holds the key to a more reasonable conversion. The generally accepted steps/mile conversion rate for pedometers is 2,000 steps per mile, and experts estimate the number of (pedometer) steps/minute on a stair climbing machine to run between 160 and 260. While that doesn't tell you exactly how many steps are in a mile, it does give you a good time range: You should burn through the equivalent of a mile on a stair climbing machine in between 7.7 and 12.5 minutes.
Consider Calories Burned
It should be patently clear by now that the conversion from stair climbing machine to distance really is inexact at best - especially when you take into account that each model of stair climber will have slightly different mechanics, and on many of them the height of each "stair" climbed is actually determined by how you use the machine.
But there's one more way of gauging how far you've gone on a stair climber: The number of calories burned. This, too, is inexact, because your calorie burn is affected by a number of factors, including your body weight and how hard you're actually working out. But the calorie burn gives you a more easily quantified gauge for comparison. According to figures from Harvard Health Publications, a 185-pound person would burn 266 calories in a half-hour of using a stair-step machine.
That's significantly more than the same person would burn in a half-hour of brisk walking at 3.5 mph (178 calories), a bit more than a half-hour of even brisker walking at 4.5 mph (222 calories, but for most people this would be a jog) and notably less than the 355 calories that person would burn in a half-hour of running at 5 mph.
While this won't tell you how far you've "traveled" on a stair climber, it tells you that its calorie-burn equivalent is somewhere between a very brisk 4.5-mph walk and a slow 5-mph run. So when you use a stair climbing machine, you expend the equivalent energy of a 4.5 to 5 mph running pace. Given that comparison, you could argue that at least in terms of calories burned, it takes between 12 and 13.5 minutes to cover each "mile" on the stair climber.