The truth is you can’t spot reduce with exercise. We can’t determine where fat will come off the body from exercise. If you do a lot of stomach crunches, you’re building the muscle but not necessarily shrinking the fat from that area. Where we store fat has a strong genetic component. However, a weight loss plan with diet and exercise should help shed fat all over the body.
Doing aerobic exercise like stair stepping has many health benefits. Aerobic exercise has benefit for cardiovascular health, helping with insulin sensitivity and building muscle strength and endurance.
Aerobic exercise can also be a way to burn extra calories and increase muscle mitochondria, which are the metabolic powerhouses of cells.
The amount of exercise you do can impact weight loss results from aerobic exercise. Some research studies have shown significant weight loss and specifically belly fat loss with aerobic exercise, but some studies have shown only a small weight change from aerobic exercise.
A 2014 review article (1) suggests unless overall exercise is very high, significant weight loss from aerobic exercise may not occur although other positive benefits from exercise can still be seen.
How much exercise, what intensity and diet all can impact weight loss efforts from aerobic exercise like stair stepping. Stair stepping can be a part of your plan for losing belly fat, but you may want to incorporate other exercises for the best benefit.
How much exercise are you doing?
How much exercise do you need for weight loss? This question is highly individualized; unfortunately, there is not a one fits all approach.
There are suggested exercise recommendations for exercise for health benefits, but these are not for weight loss necessarily. Speaking with an exercise specialist and medical team can further help you determine the best exercise level for you.
If you are starting from no exercise, doing something is always better than nothing. If you are already doing an exercise plan, you may need to up your time, intensity or variety to your exercise program for weight loss.
If you are doing stair stepping for your primary exercise and not seeing weight loss result, you will probably need up your duration or intensity to see a change.
As you progress in your weight loss and exercise routine, your muscles can adapt to become more efficient at exercise. If you have a weight loss plateau, you may need to change your workout routine to get out of a weight loss plateau.
What does your diet look like?
A big reason why you may not be seeing weight loss even though you are exercising is because you are matching or exceeding your calories burned. If you want weight loss, your body needs to start tapping into your fat stores for energy. This means your calorie intake should be under how many calories your body is using through the day.
It can be easy to match your calorie intake from exercise or justify eating more because you had a hard workout. It can be easy to overestimate how many calories you burned from exercise and under estimate how many calories you take it.
Be cautious of the stair stepper calorie counter or other fitness device counting calories, as this may not be an accurate picture for your body.
Add in some high intensity exercise
More research is suggesting doing high intensity exercise intervals (HIIT) can help with fat loss and boosting metabolic rate hours after exercise. Longer exercise duration means a more moderate exercise intensity that can be sustained.
This type of exercise can have many health benefits and help shift the body to utilizing fat as a fuel source. However, adding in some higher intensity intervals on the stair stepper could help with weight loss efforts.
A 2008 study (2) found HIIT significantly reduced abdominal fat in obese women, and researchers concluded that body composition changes are affected by exercise intensity.
The good news with doing higher intensity training is it can take less time than doing longer exercise duration at a lower intensity. Also, doing various forms of HIIT can be safe for most people. This 2008 study was done with obese, middle aged women who were sedentary.
If you have any health concerns or pain with exercise, you should speak with your healthcare team about the best exercise prescription for you. If you have been sedentary or have any risk factors for heart disease, speak with your physician before starting an exercise program.
How you can add high intensity intervals on the stair stepper
Adding in higher intensity intervals on the stair stepper can be done many ways. According to the American College of Sports Medicine (3), duration of higher intensity intervals can vary from 5 seconds to over 5 minutes of exercise intensity of 80-95% of maximal heart rate or exertion level.
Rest periods can be equal duration of intervals or longer, depending on how hard you’re working in the higher intensities.
For example, you could warm up for 5-10 minutes at a moderate intensity followed by doing 10 repetitions of 20-30 seconds of high intense stair stepping followed by 30-40 seconds of recovery at an easier level. Then follow with 5-10 minutes of cool down.
Add in variety
Do you only do the stair stepper for exercise? Adding on other types of exercise can challenge your body in different ways. Doing a variety of aerobic and strength training exercises can increase your enjoyment from exercise and can give you many health benefits.
Just doing moderate exercise intensity on the stair stepper can give you some great health benefits and be a starting point for exercising for weight loss. However, as you progress in weight loss and exercise fitness, adding in higher intensity intervals could be advantageous for losing belly fat.
Changing up your exercise intensity, duration and type of exercise can also be advantageous. Instead of doing the same level or amount of time on the stepper, change it up.