Climb Stairs Instead of Guzzling Caffeine for an Energy Boost

According to a new study, taking a break to walk stairs could be a better pick-me-up than a dose of caffeine. NChamunee/iStock/Thinkstock

Tired at the office? Bypass the long latte lines and the vending machine sodas and head for the nearest stairwell. Researchers at the University of Georgia (UGA) College of Education found that when you pace yourself, walking up and down stairs for 10 minutes gives you a better energy boost than consuming 50 milligrams of caffeine, close to average caffeine levels found in coffee, tea and sodas. The study, published in the journal Physiology & Behavior, followed 18 physically active college women ages 18-23, identified as consuming "nonextreme" amounts of caffeine, from 40 milligrams all the way to 400 milligrams per day. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration equates 400 milligrams of caffeine to about four or five cups of joe. But don't let that milligram high give you jitters — the FDA states that it's usually not associated with negative effects. In addition to their modest caffeine habit, the participants all experienced chronic insufficient sleep patterns, or less than 45 hours of snoozing each week. The researchers sought to compare an exercise easily accessible to desk sitters, who typically have less time for activity but not enough time for exercise requiring the whole change into sweat clothes, shower and change back into work attire routine. On some days, the participants swallowed a 50-milligram caffeine capsule or a flour placebo. On the other days, they walked up and down stairs at a moderate pace for 10 minutes. That's about 30 floors. To be sure there was a distinction between the effects of the caffeine and the exercise, the participants took cognitive verbal and computer-based tests measuring vigor, working memory, attention and reaction time. Stair walkers did have a slight energy boost, although there were no sizable improvements in either attention or memory due to the caffeine or exercise. Researchers acknowledge there's more research to be done, but taking the stairs can put a pep in your step.