Health: America Goes Stair Crazy

Better machines propel the popularity of step climbing

Every weekday before sunrise, a large crowd gathers in front of the Gross Court Athletic Club in Woodland, Calif., and waits eagerly for the doors to open at 5:30. What's the attraction? An aerobics class conducted by Jane Fonda? No, these health buffs are standing in line for a chance to climb stairs. Well, not real stairs. The club features those ubiquitous machines that enable people to simulate the healthful huffing and puffing of clambering up steps.

Stair climbing is the fastest-growing form of aerobic exercise in the U.S., according to American Sports Data. An estimated 4 million people, from young...

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