Does it make any health difference whether you exercise by hiking up or down a steep incline? Researchers say that in some ways it might.  Taking the stairs regularly is a simple and practical means to improving health.

Researchers asked 69 sedentary employees to use the stairs at their place of work instead of the elevators. After 12 weeks, the workers aerobic capacity had increased by 8.6 percent, which gave them a 15 percent reduction in all-cause mortality risk.

The workers also saw significant improvement in their blood pressure, cholesterol, weight, fat mass, and waist circumference. A study conducted on a mountain in the Alps where for two months 45 volunteers hiked up the 30-degree slope and rode a cable car back down.

Then, for two months more, they did the opposite. While hiking in either direction helped lower bad cholesterol, the study suggested that hiking uphill was more effective for lowering levels of fats called triglycerides, [while] hiking downhill was better for reducing blood sugars and improving glucose tolerance.

 Downhill exercise, therefore, may be good for diabetics and a bit easier for those just starting to exercise. For city dwellers, this can be accompanied in taller buildings by taking the elevator up and then walking down the stairs or by exiting a car at the top of a hill and meeting the car at the bottom. However, be aware that downhill exercise puts greater pressure on the knees.