The StairMaster has been gracing gym floors worldwide for years, and for good reason. Mimicking the motion of climbing stairs, the StairMaster is welcoming to all fitness levels, delivers a solid cardio workout, and can improve core and lower-body strength.
It may not be the trendiest piece of equipment or the most effective cardio machine at the gym — but it’s still worth stepping onto the StairMaster if it’s a workout you enjoy. Here’s why.
5 Key StairMaster Benefits
Whether you make the StairMaster your main course at the gym or hop on for a few minutes of cardio after a strength workout, here are its biggest benefits.
1. Skip the learning curve.
Climbing stairs is a natural and straightforward movement — even fitness beginners already have the StairMaster, well, mastered. Simply adjust the resistance to match your fitness level, and ramp it up when you need a challenge.
2. Engage the lower body.
The StairMaster is an effective way to strengthen and tone your legs, thighs, and butt, according to Tom Holland, MS, CSCS, and author of Beat the Gym. With each step, you’re lifting your body weight and activating the major muscle groups in your lower body — including your glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves.
Engaging these muscles will lead to increased strength and endurance in the lower body, adds Noam Tamir, CSCS and owner of TS Fitness — and that can translate to a higher caloric burn during future endurance workouts that target the lower body.
3. Increase core strength.
You’ll need to engage your core to keep your balance on the StairMaster. “Lifting your body up in a stepping motion engages your core muscles in a functional manner, strengthening the front and back of your midsection,” Holland says. The less you rely on the machine’s rails for hand support, the more your core will be activated (though Holland recommends lightly touching the rails for safety reasons).
4. Improve cardiovascular health.
Not only are the health benefits of the StairMaster visible on the body, but they extend to the heart as well. As your heart rate quickly increases during the exercise, your heart becomes stronger and cardiovascular health improves. “Walking up stairs is challenging cardiovascularly, more intense than walking on a flat surface, and burns several times more calories as well,” Holland says.
5. Protect your joints.
As a low-impact workout, the StairMaster is relatively gentle on your joints, which can help you exercise longer and more often. This can be especially helpful if you’re just getting started with fitness: “Low impact is great for people who are beginners in exercise and don’t have great endurance but want to build it up,” Tamir says.
How Many Calories Can You Burn on the StairMaster?
Lifting your body weight is a challenging action that can torch a large number of calories in a relatively short amount of time, Holland says.
According to this calorie burn calculator, a 150-pound person working at light intensity will burn around 208 calories in 30 minutes on the StairMaster. At vigorous intensity, they’ll burn 372 calories in 30 minutes.
Can You Burn Belly Fat on the StairMaster?
The StairMaster burns a significant number of calories in a short amount of time, which can contribute to fat loss. “The more calories you expend, the more fat you can lose,” explains Holland. And while you can’t spot-reduce belly fat, the StairMaster does strengthen your core, and — like any moderate to vigorous exercise — can help reduce visceral fat around your midsection.
While the StairMaster is a lower-impact exercise than the treadmill, it has the added benefit of building lower-body strength. (And it’s a bit kinder on the joints than running, Holland notes.) It may not be the most exciting workout, but it’s a great option for improving your cardiovascular health and endurance, and building a strong fitness foundation.