Good news for gym-haters: it turns out that the often-repeated advice to ‘climb the stairs instead of the lift’ during the day does actually make a difference when it comes to your heart health.

This is obviously a welcome piece of news if you spend most of your day sitting at a desk, as it means you can improve your cardiovascular fitness with just a little bit of extra effort.

The study, from McMaster University, found that exercise ‘snacking’ (ie breaking up small bursts of activity throughout the day) worked just as well as ‘sprint’ training (ie doing several stair climbs in quick succession). Researchers compared people who didn’t exercise at all with a group of formerly sedentary adults who climbed a three-flight stairwell three times a day, separated by between one and four hours of recovery.

As well as boosting their cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) they were also stronger after six weeks of stair climbing, and generated more power during a cycling test.

‘The findings make it even easier for people to incorporate ‘exercise snacks’ into their day,’ says Martin Gibala, a professor of kinesiology at McMaster and senior author on the study.

‘Those who work in office towers or live in apartment buildings can vigorously climb a few flights of stairs in the morning, at lunch, and in the evening and know they are getting an effective workout.’