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A way to perk up your day with a jolt of exercise

Kristen B. Morales

November 8, 2017

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The next time you head to the vending machine for a can of caffeinated soda, just keep on walking—that exercise will likely wake you up more than the drink.

This new research from the College of Education’s Department of Kinesiology takes an innovative look at the ways in which exercise can have an effect on our lives and health.

Often, studies that look at the impact of exercise focus on more traditional activities such as running or cycling. This study, says co-author Patrick J. O’Connor, a professor in the Department of Kinesiology, considers ways people can “sneak” exercise into an average day.

“Office workers can go outside and walk, but weather can be less than ideal. I have never been rained on walking the stairs,” says O’Connor, who wanted to compare an exercise that could be achieved by people in an office setting—without the need to change into workout gear or shower afterward. “A lot of people who work in office buildings have access to stairs, so it’s an option to keep some fitness while taking a short break from work.”

O’Connor and former graduate student Derek Randolph found that 10 minutes of walking up and down stairs at a low intensity was more likely to make people feel energized than ingesting 50 milligrams of caffeine, the equivalent of the amount in a can of soda. For the study, participants on separate days ingested either caffeine capsules or a placebo, or spent 10 minutes walking up and down stairs.

Then, they took verbal and computer-based tests to gauge how they felt and how well they could perform on a test of attention. While there is still work to be done on the specific benefits of walking up and down stairs, O’Connor says even a brief bout of stair walking can enhance feelings of energy without reducing cognitive function.

Related links: Department of Kinesiology