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I'm an obese adult, weighing 316lbs.

I have started to try and lose some weight and would like to do something about my fitness levels. I have begun to take the stairs (5 flights) and when I get to the top I am breathless.

My question

If I continue to do this once a day will the breathlessness improve (I'm not sure of the official term for this, but what I mean is, will normal breathing return more quickly, will I sweat less, that sort of thing)? Or would I need to be performing this small exercise a lot more frequently for it to make a difference? Please note that I am NOT asking if climbing the stairs once a day will help me lose weight as I know the calories burned would be negligible.

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    Also, excellent work on finding a piece of "daily fitness" that you can build into your normal routine. – Eric Jan 27 '15 at 15:28
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    Great start! The best benefits of increased fitness will be in your ability to do the things you want to do - so if this helps turn walking around the park/pond/woods with [your] daughter into an enjoyable thing that you look forward to - that is the best possible result of exercise. Focus on having a body that allows you to do the things you want/love to do! – Adam Jan 27 '15 at 21:04
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    Thank you both, @Adam that is my main aim, and when she gets older, we can hopefully do even more fun active things like ride bikes together etc. – LauraJ Jan 28 '15 at 9:53
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    I would suggest consulting a doctor if it would be healthy for your knees first. – Enivid Jan 29 '15 at 20:25
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"Fitness" is a fairly broad term, but I'd provide a boiled down definition that it means your body's ability to handle physical exertion. Exertion comes in all shapes and sizes (moving a piano, walking across a city, etc), so being "fit" enough to do those things depends on the type of training and conditioning you're doing.

Most people want to train in such a way that maximizes the benefits across multiple categories like fat loss, improved image, being less injury prone, reducing illness, and increased general athleticism.

Additionally, training is built on the concept of adaptation, and adaption is specific. Again, most people are best served by picking the training (that requires your body to adapt) that yields the most benefits with the shortest amount of time. This is what divides effective fitness programs from less effective ones.

If I continue to [walk 5 flights] once a day will the breathlessness improve (I'm not sure of the official term for this, but what I mean is, will normal breathing return more quickly, will I sweat less, that sort of thing)?

Yes. Your body will adapt to the workload, and you will get better at it. There will also be some carry over to walking and anything requiring step-ups. Adaptation is specific.

Would I need to be performing this small exercise a lot more frequently for it to make a difference?

The more you do it (barring injuries and overtraining) the bigger and faster the adaptation will happen. Adaptation is specific, so someone walking 20 flights of steps will be adapted to those, versus you doing your 5.

In practical terms though, even if you want to walk those stairs ten times a day, you're probably best served initially by doing it once or twice per day and ratcheting up from there. Another aspect of training is that you want to put yourself right into "too much" without going into "ouch, I'm hurt" mode. It's often nicknamed "good pain" vs "bad pain".

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    Thank you Eric. I guess my main thinking behind the question is along the lines of 'climbing the stairs once a day will improve my fitness so that walking around the park/pond/woods with my daughter will be less of a chore and more enjoyable'. – LauraJ Jan 27 '15 at 15:48
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    @LauraJ there is a lot of carryover between stair climbing and hiking / walking, so yes the more you stair flights you climb as part of a daily routine, the more adapted you will be when it comes time to hike / walk in park with your daughter. – Moses Jan 27 '15 at 19:37

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