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Even if you’re fit enough to run a 5‑K or take a spin class – climbing a staircase can still leave you breathless. Cardiologist Dr. Nieca Goldberg says unless you’re a StairMaster junkie, climbing stairs can elevate your heart rate quickly, leaving you short on oxygen. Especially since you’re essentially doing uphill lunges and fighting gravity, while lifting your whole bodyweight one leg at a time. And running up 20 stairs versus running 20 steps on flat terrain combines aerobics with strength training. So yes, even if you’re in great shape, a flight of stairs can leave you gasping.