Sure, I'd like to see people working hard, with intense functional exercises (you could do worse than to start with the basic routines that Joel suggests), but for most people even a low level of exercise would do them some good.
I was reminded of this by a couple of studies that I saw today:
Routine stair climbing in place of residence and Body Mass Index: a pan-European population based study - This study examined the association between daily stair climbing, as measured by floor of residence in buildings without elevators, and body mass index (BMI). Among men, residence on a higher floor was significantly associated with lower BMI (P=0.003); BMI of men residing on the fourth floor or above was 0.88 lower than men residing on the first floor.
Then there was this:
Killer stairs? Taking the elevator could be worse for your body - a reduction in daily physical activity is an actual cause of many of the risk factors for chronic diseases, including diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The research team also found that it only takes about two weeks of reduced activity for individuals to start noticing the effects.
“We used to think that it is healthy to be physically active, but this study shows that it is dangerous to be inactive for just a couple of weeks,” said Bente Klarlund Pedersen, co-author and lead investigator of the study and professor of internal medicine and director of Centre of Inflammation and Metabolism at the University of Copenhagen. “After 14 days of reduced stepping, subjects experienced accumulation of the dangerous abdominal fat, while also developing elevated blood-lipids, a sign of -pre-diabetes and cardiovascular disease. If you choose the passive mode of transport and abstain from exercise, than your risk of chronic disease is likely to increase markedly.”
“When the doctor says to go and exercise, they are not just telling patients to do that to improve their health; increasing daily stepping could actually reverse a cause of chronic disease,” Booth said. “When extra fats and sugars (glucose) don’t clear the bloodstream, they go where we don’t want them and cause problems for our bodies’ typical metabolic functions.”
The researchers also found that the total skeletal and muscle mass in the body decreased when the lack of activity decreased.
If you are interested in some more challenging options for using the stairs, take a look at this pdf from Virgil Aponte: Stair Lunge Variations to increase your Strength, Dynamic Flexibility, Balance and Conditioning!