Stairs Calorie Calculator

Created by Maria Kluziak and Aleksandra Zając, MD
Reviewed by Bogna Szyk and Jack Bowater
Based on research by
Ainsworth BE, Haskell WL, Herrmann SD, Meckes N, Bassett Jr DR, Tudor-Locke C, Greer JL, Vezina J, Whitt-Glover MC, Leon AS Compendium of Physical Activities: a second update of codes and MET values Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, (2011)
Last updated: Jul 31, 2022

Have you ever wondered "How many steps to burn a calorie?" This stairs calorie calculator is designed to answer that question! Use it to estimate the calories burned climbing stairs and be amazed at the benefit something as simple as ditching the elevator once in a while can give you! Read on to learn how to calculate calories burned during physical activity, discover the stairs calorie formula, and find out more about the perks of a stairs workout.

Stairs calorie calculator: woman jogging upstairs

How to calculate calories burned climbing stairs?

The stairs calorie calculator is a tool designed to estimate the number of calories burned while climbing up (or descending) stairs for a certain amount of time. To do so, the calculator has to know two things:

  1. The type of activity performed. In this case, the difference is between the speed with which you are taking the stairs, the direction (up or down?), whether they are actual stairs or a ladder, and the weight of the load you're carrying (if any). The difference stems from the MET values of the activities. You will learn more about MET and its place in the calorie formula further in the article; and

  2. Your body weight. Please be advised that in the case of severe obesity, you might need to calculate your adjusted body weight rather than your actual one, so that accuracy is maximized.

If you're not just interested in the rate at which calories are burned, but would also like to know a more specific number, input the time elapsed into the stairs calorie calculator, and you will receive an estimation of the calories burned climbing stairs for that time.

What is MET, and why does it matter?

MET (short for Metabolic Equivalent of Task) is a unit measuring the energy an activity consumes compared to resting. One MET is an activity that burns one calorie per kilogram per hour (1 kcal/kg/h), which roughly translates to the energy used when sitting still. The value has become the go-to tool for physical activity guidelines and recommendations. It divides sports into three categories:

  • light-intensity activities (MET below 3);
  • moderate-intensity activities - (MET from 3 to 6); and
  • vigorous-intensity activities - (MET above 6).

In the case of stairs, the Arizona State University Compendium of Physical Activities provides the following values:

Activity MET
Climbing up stairs slowly 4
Climbing up stairs fast 8.8
Climbing a ladder 8
Descending stairs 3.5
Carrying a load upstairs (1 - 15lb / 0.5 - 7kg) 5
Carrying a load upstairs (15 - 24lb / 7 - 11kg) 6
Carrying a load upstairs (24 - 49lb / 11 - 22kg) 8
Carrying a load upstairs (49 - 74lb / 22 - 34kg) 10
Carrying a load upstairs (> 74lb / 34kg) 12

You can find out more about MET and its values for many different activities (such as swimming, running or cycling) in our MET minutes calculator.

What's the stairs calorie formula?

Even though the stairs calorie calculator does the work for you, we understand that you might be interested in the math of calculating how many steps to burn a calorie. Don't worry - the stairs calorie formula is an easy one, and it can be used in many other cases as well.

calories burned per minute = (MET × body weight in kg × 3.5) / 200

As you can see, this equation is not just limited to calories burned climbing stairs. In fact, it's more of a general calorie formula, and can be applied to pretty much any physical activity, as long you know its MET! So regardless if you're doing a stairs workout, or a run, you only need to remember this one short calculation!

Is a stairs workout a good idea?

You now know how to calculate calories burned climbing stairs. But why should you even consider ditching elevators in the first place? The answer is short - it has a number of health benefits! Let's take look at some of them:

  • It's easier on your joints than many other physical activities (for example, running is known to be hard on your knees and is not advisable in certain instances). This makes it a good exercise, especially for people with preexisting joint issues, or those who are overweight. Please note that this is especially true when going upstairs; descending stairs is a little harder on the knees, so if you're worried about having to go back down, you can try exercising on a stair climber machine at your local gym.

  • Climbing up stairs is great cardio workout! That means it has a surplus of benefits for your heart and whole circulatory system. To name but a few, it improves blood circulation, and thus stabilizes blood pressure, effectively decreasing the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases.

  • It supports bone health, thus lowering the risk of developing osteoporosis.

  • It's a great way to build leg muscle. Interestingly, scientific research suggests that strong leg muscles correlate with a healthy nervous system - all the more reason to exercise.

  • It's very effective at burning body fat, making it an excellent weight loss exercise.

  • It's convenient. Taking stairs is extremely easy to incorporate into your daily life!

How to prepare for a safe stairs workout?

If we've convinced you to give stairs a try, we're happier than ever! However, knowing how many steps to burn a calorie and the enthusiasm to give it a try is not everything. To make the best of the exercise, you need to prepare beforehand!

  • Make sure that your shoes are a good fit. They should provide cushioning and sufficient stability while walking, enough room for your toes, and have a comfortable heel. Make sure the sole is not slippery and wear good quality socks to avoid blisters.

  • Keep a good posture! Try to relax your neck and keep it straight throughout the exercise. The same applies to the shoulders.

  • Don't overdo it at the beginning. Start with a warm-up, and gradually increase the pace accordingly to your capability. Setting up an appropriate training pace is the key to success.

  • If you have any preexisting medical conditions, consult your doctor before starting your stair workouts! This is especially important if:

    • You have joint problems, especially knee or ankle pain, stiffness or swelling;
    • Feel short of breath during physical effort;
    • Have any chronic disease (especially cardiovascular or respiratory);
    • Tend to get dizzy or even faint; and
    • Have a history of smoking, as it may hinder your general physical capacity.
  • Even when you know you're healthy, if you've never really exercised before it's a good idea to get a general checkup and assess such things as your lung capacity.

FAQ

How many calories do I burn running up four flights of stairs?

9 kcal. For a person weighing 70 kg running up four flights of stairs in 45 seconds, the calories burned equal roughly what you would get from a couple of jelly beans! To calculate the calories, use the formula:
t × (MET × w × 3.5)/200
Where:

  • t is the time used;
  • MET is the metabolic equivalent of the task, equaling 8.8 for a run up the stairs; and
  • w is the weight of the person.

What is the stair test?

The stair test is a simple way to assess your health using only the stairs of a high-rise building. Since the time needed to climb up a flight of stairs is closely related to the health of a person, you can monitor the state of your heart by climbing up as fast as you can. Remember that this test isn't a substitute for standard clinical check-ups!

Should I take the stairs?

Always! Even if the number of calories burned by climbing up to an average four stories apartment is not impressive (around 4 kcal), the benefits from this small activity are many!

  1. It's good for your joints;
  2. It's good for your heart;
  3. It makes for great leg muscles, bum, and healthy bones;
  4. If you do it a lot, it helps you losing weight;
  5. It's easy to do, you just need stairs; and
  6. You can meet many more people on the stairs than in a lift!

How many calories can you burn running up the Empire State Building?

About 110 kcal. Paul Crake reached the observation deck at the 86th floor in just above 9 minutes and 30 seconds. Assuming a MET (metabolic equivalent of the task) of 8.8, equaling 11.5 kcal/min and a weight of 75 kg, we can apply the formula:
t × (MET × w × 3.5)/200 = 9.5 × (8.8 × 75 × 3.5)/200 = 109.73

Maria Kluziak and Aleksandra Zając, MD
Activity
Stair climbing (slow)
Body weight
lb
Calories
Burning
kcal/
per minute
Time elapsed
min
Total burned
kcal
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