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Here’s Why You Need to Feel Confident on Steps and Stairs

By Claudine Aherne February 18, 2024 Health and Fitness

Would you like to feel stronger and steadier on the stairs? Are you fine on the stairs at home but sometimes find them hard when you’re out and about? Would you like to feel more confident coming down steps and stairs – anytime, anywhere?

If that sounds like you, keep reading.

As a specialist exercise instructor for more than 15 years, I’ve worked with hundreds of people who struggle with stairs, steps and kerbs. I’ve worked with them to help them feel stronger, steadier and more confident. And I’d love to help you too!

I’ve learnt that stairs really do matter. And struggling up and down them isn’t enough. When you feel confident about going up and down steps and stairs, you can make the most of every day.

We Can’t Always Avoid the Stairs

Stairs are everywhere, and you can’t always plan for them or avoid them. Most people tell me they’re OK with the stairs at home and only have trouble when they’re out and about.

Often there are lifts (or elevators, depending on where you are!), but not everywhere. And we can’t always find out in advance.

We also don’t know what kind of stairs we will come across. They could be steeper than at home, have a narrower tread or even no handrail.

People have told me that if their companions are fine on the stairs, they don’t want to be the one who has to make a detour to take the lift or ask for someone to assist them.

Just Getting Down Isn’t Good Enough

I’ve worked with quite a few people who tell me they struggle on the stairs but get down eventually (and haven’t fallen yet).

Yes, they get up and down but experience quite a lot of stress and anxiety and are not as safe as they could be.

The most significant risk with stairs is that we trip or fall, perhaps breaking a bone or suffering a traumatic head injury.

I don’t want to dwell on that, and the fact is that most people won’t end up falling down the stairs. Many, however, will worry about doing so.

We need to recognise the impact of this worry and anxiety. And we need to notice its effect on our sense of self and what we do every day.

Feel Confident with Stairs to Make the Most of Every Day

If we struggle with steps and stairs, there might be places we can’t go, people we find it harder to see or trips we don’t make.

I worked with a wonderful lady who was anxious about an upcoming family holiday to Eastern Europe. She was worried that she wouldn’t be able to take the stairs at all the cultural sites. She thought she might miss out on events or be the one holding the rest of the family up.

And I’ve spoken with people who haven’t booked trips or who avoid days out with family because they’re worried about the stairs they might encounter. They reduce their options and miss out on experiences they would otherwise enjoy.

However, when we feel confident about taking the stairs – anytime, anywhere – we keep our options open.

We can book travel, get on the train, visit cultural sites and anything else we want. We can see all the people we want to see and enjoy all the events and activities we want to do.

We Can Improve Our ‘Stair Fitness’ and Our ‘Stair Confidence’

So stairs and steps do matter. We can’t avoid them all. And it’s not enough to get up or down them somehow; we need to be able to do so confidently and safely. We want to know that we’ll be fine wherever we go and whatever stairs we find when we get there.

The good news is there are lots of things we can do to help us with this. We need strong muscles, stable joints and good balance to stay steady on the stairs.

And we can improve all of these with the right exercise programme.

Strong & Steady on the Stairs: Step Ups

Do this with me now – you don’t need any particular clothes or equipment (just a step or flight of stairs).

You’ll find the full Strong & Steady on the Stairs routines in the Vida Wellness Studio, where you can also claim a 14-day free trial. And you can peruse our database of balance and posture exercises, feel stronger videos and so much more. You can see if it works for you and ask us any questions you have too!

Let’s Have a Conversation:

How confident are you on steps and stairs? Why is it important to you to maintain your ‘stair fitness’? How would it change your life if you felt more confident about steps and stairs?

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Teddee Grace

I couldn’t possibly step up this high without pulling on something with my arms. I have spinal stenosis that is affecting the strength in my left leg in particular. Something less strenuous for people with less leg strength would be helpful.


Hi Teddee, That’s absolutely fine (and apologies if it wasn’t clear) – you don’t need to step up this high. You should definitely use the best height step for you – it doesn’t matter how high or low it is. And if you need to use your arms a bit too, that’s ok. We have a selection of other strength videos that don’t use steps as well – we’ll try and share these in a future video here on Sixty and Me. Thanks and take care.


Thanks for this article, I could identify with a lot of it. I have suffered with knee pain and issues for 15 years, it started as a side effect of a chemotherapy drug I was treated with. Very high stair treads and inclined are a problem for me and it affects my confidence out walking.

Last spring I was on a visit to Milan and my husband wanted to go on one of the old fashioned trams that are still running in parts of the city. When the doors open there is a very high step up with 2 treads – when I got to the top tread my left knee completely gave way underneath me and I fell. We were at the front of the tram and the driver kindly left his cab and assisted my husband to get me up. I was so embarrassed I just wanted the floor to swallow me.

I have to return to my home in Scotland next month, again my house has high stair treads and I am not looking forward to being there for 2 weeks.

The Author

Over the last 16 years, Claudine has helped hundreds of people to improve their balance, feel stronger and move more easily. That's why her in-person classes and online programmes have been featured globally, including on BBC Radio 4. Members of her online exercise studio enjoy an extensive library of easy-to-follow videos, as well as advice and support. Try some taster videos from the Vida Wellness Studio.

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