How stairs can put a pep in your step at the office

Feeling sleep-deprived and flagging at your computer? Don’t grab (another) cup of coffee or a cooldrink. Instead walk the stairs and get a quick boost.

A small study among female students found that walking up and down the stairs at a low-intensity pace for 10 minutes was more energising than a midday shot of caffeine‚ equivalent to the amount in a can of soda.

Professor Patrick O’Connor from the University of Georgia’s kinesiology department said there wasn’t much change in how the group felt after taking a caffeine or placebo capsule on separate days.

“But with exercise they did feel more energetic and vigorous. It was a temporary feeling‚ felt immediately after the exercise.”

The research involved 18 chronically sleep-deprived (less than 6.5 hours a night) college women and aimed to simulate an office setting where people don’t have much time to exercise.

In total the participants walked about 30 floors in 10 minutes at a regular pace. They performed verbal and computer-based tests before and after the exercise to see how well they performed cognitively.

Their attention and memory didn’t improve significantly but there was a small increase in motivation.

“Office workers can go outside and walk‚ but weather can be less than ideal. It has never rained on me while walking the stairs‚” said O’Connor‚ writing in the Journal of Physiology and Behavior this week.

Meanwhile‚ a study involving 4‚000 participants reinforces concerns that drinking sugary beverages like sodas and fruit juices every day risks harming the brain.

People who frequently consume sugary drinks are “more likely to have poorer memory‚ smaller overall brain volumes and smaller hippocampus volumes (an area of the brain important for memory)” the researchers found.

The study also showed that people who drank diet soda daily were almost three times as likely to develop stroke or dementia.

Too much sugar is known to be bad for us but this study provides confirmation that artificially sweetened beverages are linked to cardiometabolic risk factors too.

Researchers suggested caution about consuming sugary or diet drinks but said it was too soon to say their observations on the risk to the brain equalled “cause and effect”.

The findings‚ based on data from the Framingham Heart Study‚ were published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia‚ as well the Stroke journal.

South African scientist Professor Tim Noakes has been vocal about the dangers of sugar to health‚ while the Nutrition Information Centre of the University of Stellenbosch recommends the public use a variety of sweeteners only in moderate amounts.