Study finds stair walking can be more energizing than caffeine in sleep deprived women

Research recently published in Physiology & Behavior suggests that stair walking can temporarily improve a person’s sense of energy.

The study of 18 sleep deprived college women compared the effects of 10 minutes of low-to-moderate intensity stair walking to a low dose (50 mg) of caffeine or a placebo. The researchers found that the stair walking exercise produced a larger magnitude increase in feelings of energy than the caffeine. However, stair walking did not improve working memory, sustained attention or the mood states of tension, depression, anger, fatigue or confusion.

PsyPost interviewed the study’s corresponding author, Patrick J. O’Connor of the University of Georgia. Read his responses below:

PsyPost: Why were you interested in this topic?

O’Connor: I have a longstanding interest in understanding relationships between physical activity and feelings of energy and fatigue. Also, we noticed that there are few studies examining the psychological consequences of a single, short bout of stair walking even though it can be a great form of exercise, especially in bad weather.

What should the average person take away from your study?

A small sample of chronically sleep deprived (< 6.5 hours per night) young women with low energy feel more energetic after 10-minutes of stair walking at a low intensity. This temporary effect was larger than the changes in energy observed after taking a capsule containing 50 mg of caffeine or a placebo capsule. There was also a small effect of stair walking on increasing motivation to do cognitive work, though there was not any effect on attention or memory.

Are there any major caveats? What questions still need to be addressed?

The sample was limited in size and focused on young, chronically sleep deprived women. Whether the findings generalized to other groups (e.g. middle-age or older adults, men, those sleeping well) is uncertain.

The study, “Stair walking is more energizing than low dose caffeine in sleep deprived young women“, was also co-authored by Derek D. Randolph.