Does the Stair Stepper Help Burn Fat?

The stair stepper, or step machine, is a low-impact training device operated from an upright position. To use the machine, you have to place your feet on pedals and move them up and down. Basically, you are simulating walking up stairs without an actual staircase.


Stair steppers are cardiovascular machines that cause you to move your legs in a steady, repetitive motion for the duration of your workout. This in turn burns calories, so the stair stepper does in fact help burn fat. However, spot reduction is not possible 1. This means exercising on the stepper will cause weight loss throughout your whole body, not just your legs.

Time Frame

The amount of time spent on the stepper makes a difference in the rate of fat burning. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 60 to 90 minutes of cardio, five days a week to lose weight. Short exercise bouts on the stepper spread throughout the day to meet this guideline have the same fat-burning effect as exercising in one long session.

Muscle Recruitment

When you use the step machine, you activate multiple muscles in your lower body, such as:

  • the glutes
  • hamstrings
  • quadriceps
  • calves

When you build muscle, you increase your resting metabolic rate and burn more calories throughout the day. Even small gains of muscle contribute. For example, The University of Michigan Health System claims that a single pound of added muscle will cause you to burn an extra 30 to 50 calories a day. The stair stepper also comes equipped with a resistance adjustment. Increasing the resistance makes the exercise harder, which in turn increases the workload on your muscles.


Interval training involves alternating your intensity back and forth from high to low while you use the stepper. This causes your body to burn a high amount of calories after you are done exercising which leads to quicker fat loss. Such factors as oxygenation of circulatory hormones, body temperature returning to normal and the heart rate lowering back to normal can all have an effect. The increased caloric expenditure from these factors is known as the excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. The harder you work out on the stepper, the greater results you will have. This effect is also seen with high-intensity weight training.


When you consume more calories than you burn, you gain weight. When you consume fewer calories than you burn (i.e., a caloric deficit), you lose weight. Reducing calories and using the stair stepper creates a two-fold fat-burning effect. A 500-calorie daily deficit can cause about 1 lb. of weight loss a week, according to 3.


Even though stair stepping is low-impact and a safe form of exercise, make sure to get consent from your doctor before starting out. He will evaluate you to see of you're in good enough physical health to exercise.