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The Best Midday Energy Booster Is...
...a trip up and down the stairs.

Put down the coffee cup. Don't go anywhere near that soda machine. If you want to jolt yourself awake around 3 p.m. when you get the afternoon doldrums, climb up and down the nearest set of stairs.

That's the word from researchers at the University of Georgia in Athens, who found that 10 minutes of walking up and down stairs at a regular pace does more to make you feel energized than drinking a cup of coffee or a can of soda.

Find out another--and even more important benefit--of stair-walking as exercise.

The study: Led by Patrick J. O'Connor, a kinesiology professor, the team recruited female college students who described themselves as chronically sleep deprived, which means they slept less than 6.5 hours a night. The idea was to simulate the hurdles that are faced in a typical office setting where people spend hours sitting at desks and staring at computer screens with no time for exercise during the day.

For the study, participants on separate days either ingested capsules containing caffeine or a placebo, or they spent 10 minutes walking up and down stairs--about 30 floors total--at a low-intensity pace.

To test the effects of caffeine versus the exercise, each group took some verbal and computer-based tests to gauge how they felt and how well they performed certain cognitive tasks.

The results: Neither caffeine nor exercise caused large improvements in attention or memory, but stair-walking was associated with a small increase in motivation for work, albeit temporary.

Why the stairs? "Office workers can go outside and walk, but weather can be less than ideal. It has never rained on me while walking the stairs," quips O'Connor. "And a lot of people working in office buildings have access to stairs, so it's an option to keep some fitness while taking a short break from work."

The study findings were published in the journal Physiology and Behavior.

Find out 10 ways to exercise your muscles at work--even when you're crunching numbers and writing words.

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