Here's a really easy way to check your fitness and heart health

Running up four flights of stairs in less than a minute is a great indicator of good heart health, according to science

Heart health
(Image credit: Getty Images)

How do you know you're in good shape? If you're assessing your fitness levels to figure out what your 2021 goals are going to be, it's sometimes hard to tell. The best fitness trackers and best running watch models can often be a great indicator, providing you metrics like your heart rate and VO2 max in addition to useful features like sleep tracking. 

But what if you want a very simple measurement of your heart health? According to a new study from the European Society of Cardiology, absolutely anyone can find out if they have a healthy heart by completing this simple challenge.

Cardiologists at the University Hospital A Coruña, Spain, said "if it takes you more than one-and-a-half minutes to ascend four flights of stairs, your health is suboptimal, and it would be a good idea to consult a doctor.

"The idea was to find a simple and inexpensive method of assessing heart health. This can help physicians triage patients for more extensive examinations."


(Image credit: Getty Images)

The study examined 165 patients who went for a run on the treadmill, rested for around 15 minutes, and then were asked to run up four flights of stairs. The study found found 58% of the participants who took more than 90 seconds to climb the stairs had clear markers of heart disease. However, just 32% of those who took less than one minute to climb the stairs had abnormal heart function.

The results speak for themselves. If you can climb four flights of stairs in less than one minute after a run, your heart health is likely to be pretty good. If it takes you more than 90 seconds, it's a good idea to see a doctor about your heart health. 

This is a good starting point for people looking to make a change. However, if you already know you're in the at-risk category and are looking for a less strenuous way to start exercising, we would recommend walking to lose weight.

Walking is an easy way to get started with exercise. It's very low-impact, low-intensity and can be done with just a set of comfortable clothes and some of the best shoes for walking. You can also examine our best heart rate monitor buying guides for a more accurate, consistent heart health measurement.

Matt Evans

Matt Evans is an experienced health and fitness journalist and is currently Fitness and Wellbeing Editor at TechRadar, covering all things exercise and nutrition on Fit&Well's tech-focused sister site. Matt originally discovered exercise through martial arts: he holds a black belt in Karate and remains a keen runner, gym-goer, and infrequent yogi. His top fitness tip? Stretch.