Here's why you might want to swap your midday cup of Joe for a quick trip up and down the stairs.
If you don't get as much sleep as you should, there's a good chance you compensate for it with caffeine, because mmm coffee. And while there are some health benefits of coffee, it's not a great idea to overdo it. Luckily, a recent study published in Physiology & Behavior found that there may be an easy replacement for your midday coffee, and it's office-friendly too.
In the study, researchers took a group of chronically sleep-deprived women who slept less than 6.5 hours per night and had them try a variety of things to boost their energy. In the first round of research, people took either a 50mg capsule of caffeine (roughly the amount in a soda or a small cup of coffee) or a placebo capsule. In the second round, everyone did 10 minutes of low-intensity stair walking, which adds up to about 30 flights. After the subjects took a capsule or did the stair walk, the researchers used computer-based tests to measure things like their attention, working memory, work motivation, and energy level. (Here, find out how long it takes for your body to start ignoring caffeine.)
Those 10 minutes of walking up and down stairs—something that most office buildings have—produced much better results on the computer tests than the caffeine or the placebo pills. Though none of the methods they tried helped improve memory or attention (guess you've got to get a full night of sleep for that!), people felt most energetic and vigorous after the stair walking. As a result, the scientists behind the study believe that a quick walk up and down your office building's stairs will help you feel more awake during that midafternoon slump than chugging another cup of coffee will. (FYI, this is why you shouldn't drink energy drinks—no matter how tired you are.)
As for exactly why the stair walking worked better than caffeine, the study authors say more research is needed to figure out the details. But the fact that there was a big difference between the two methods of perking yourself up means there's definitely something to the idea of subbing stairs for cappuccinos. After all, it's well-known that exercise can up your energy levels over time (that just one of the mental health benefits of exercise), so it makes sense that non-vigorous exercise could help boost energy immediately, too. While we're still not sure exactly why this method works, it seems like a pretty doable substitute for those who are trying to cut down their caffeine intake. (If you're struggling to quit caffeine, this is the best way to successfully quit a bad habit for good.)