The Empire State Building "run up" happens each winter. Hundreds of competitors race up the 1,576 stairs to the 86th floor; the winner typically finishes in under 11 minutes. You have to be in extraordinary shape to compete in one of these events. To win, you have to take the stairs two at a time, running.
If you're just looking for a convenient way to exercise, non-competitive stair climbing can give you an excellent workout. You can burn more calories stair climbing than you would jogging or cycling at a moderate pace for the same amount of time. A team of British researchers estimates that climbing stairs for seven minutes daily could reduce your risk of heart disease by about 60 percent.
Fortunately, the impact on your knees is relatively low - the pressure from stair climbing is said to be the equivalent of twice your body weight compared to three to four times the impact with running. However, your knees take a pounding if you walk down after going up. The impact equals six or seven times your body weight. So climb up, but take the elevator down.
The obvious advantages of stair climbing as a workout are that you don't need to join a gym, buy expensive equipment, or endure summer’s heat or winter’s cold as joggers do. You can do it almost anywhere there are stairs - at work and at home (especially if you live in a high-rise building). If you're not already fit, I advise checking with your physician before you start climbing stairs. And if you're going to be climbing in a high-rise building, I suggest doing it with a workout partner for both encouragement and safety.