I’ll admit it—I have a Diet Coke dependency. I’ve been drinking (at least) one of these no-calorie bad boys a day since I was about 14 years old. For my comrades who believe that caffeine, much like revenge, is best served cold, here’s some good news (if you’re trying to kick the habit, that is). You can get the same energy boost by taking the stairs.
The next time you’re itching for an afternoon pick-me-up, look no further than your building’s stairwell. Walking at a normal speed up and down the stairs for 10 minutes has been shown to provide more energy and motivation to work than taking 50 milligrams of caffeine, about the amount in a can of soda, according to research by the University of Georgia.
Office workers often don’t get to move around enough during the day. And a lot of us don’t have the option or time to leave work daily for a walkabout or do a costume change for a gym session. That’s why the researchers looked at stair-walking, said kinesiology professor and study author Patrick J. O’Connor to the university.
“Office workers can go outside and walk, but weather can be less than ideal,” O’Connor said. “A lot of people working in office buildings have access to stairs, so it’s an option to keep some fitness while taking a short break from work.”
The research team worked with female college students who described themselves as chronically sleep deprived—that is, getting less than 6.5 hours of sleep per night—to compare the effects of caffeine to light exercise.
Participants who took in the dose of caffeine and the placebo didn’t experience a pick-me-up afterward, but the ones who spent 10 minutes walking up the stairs—scaling about 30 floors total—”did feel more energetic and vigorous,” O’Connor said.
“It was a temporary feeling, felt immediately after the exercise, but with the 50 milligrams of caffeine, we didn’t get as big an effect,” he said.
The stair-walkers experienced a small burst in motivation to work right afterward, according to the study. If you’re feeling trapped in the midday doldrums but still have a big project to tackle that day, taking a short walk on some stairs could be the thing you need to kickstart a productive second half of your day.
Katie Moritz is Rewire’s web editor and a Pisces who enjoys thrift stores, rock concerts and pho. She covered politics for a newspaper in Juneau, Alaska, before driving down to balmy Minnesota to help produce long-standing public affairs show “Almanac” at Twin Cities PBS. Now she works on this here website. Reach her via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @katecmoritz and on Instagram @yepilikeit.