difficulty climbing stairs

Having Difficulty Climbing Stairs?

We all have sore knees from time to time as we get older, but it is the worst feeling when you are having difficulty climbing stairs, because more often than not, you need to climb stairs in your home or when you go out, and it is terrible wincing each time you take another step up or down because of weak knees.

Here are some wonderful tips to help you climb or descend stairs like you are floating on air.

Practice these individually so you build a habit around each of them and your body will start to remember to do them. It is a matter of building that muscle memory so it becomes a habit.

Tips To Stop Having Difficulty Climbing Stairs

  • difficulty climbing stairsMake your glutes (butt muscles) the driving force when climbing stairs. You should feel like your glutes rather than your legs or knees are doing all the work to propel you onward and upward.
  • While climbing stairs, drive your knees outward. This will provide greater stability and strength. Put another way, don’t let your knees collapse inward when going up or downstairs. Pressure should be outward, not inward.
  • Point your toes outward just slightly. This will help your knees track outwards as well and help prevent your knees from collapsing inward.
  • Line up your knee with your second toe. You want your knees tracking properly. Keep them in line with your second toe and you will need to concentrate on doing this until your body takes over for you.
  • Tighten the abs and try to tuck your pelvis in as much as possible. This will help align the pelvis.
  • When climbing upward, feel pressure on the outer portion of your foot, especially your heel. Why? Two reasons. This will again, help prevent your knees from collapsing inward. Secondly, when there is a weakness in your knees, they often “wobble” when you are doing difficult movements like stair climbing. When you focus on your weight distribution to such a small degree, it can help minimize the wobbling of your knees.
  • On days when your knees are especially achy, lead with your better knee. Or you can try hopping onto a stationary exercise bike for your knee pain instead!
  • On days where your knees feel good, practice! If you live in a location without stairs, find some stairs to practice on. You never know when you’ll need to climb them and you want to be ready.
  • Keep your body hydrated. When you are dehydrated, your muscles are more likely to spasm which can cause micro-injuries you may not notice at first. This can happen when you do strenuous movements like climbing stairs.
  • Practice slowly and don’t rush. Think about each and every recommendation. As my old gym teacher used to preach, “Practice doesn’t make perfect. PERFECT practice makes perfect.

Jack Lalanne once taught, “Exercise is king, nutrition is queen”. Why is exercise king? When you exercise, you force your body to make small changes and adapt. No matter what your age. At 70 years young, good ol’ Jack swam 1.5 miles in strong currents while pulling 70 people on 70 boats. Oh, and I forgot to mention his wrists were handcuffed and his feet were shackled the entire time.

Now, I doubt you have any desire to do anything that crazy. But the point is you are stronger than you think. Don’t let those stairs defeat you.

Start small by doing the above exercises 3-4 times a week. And soon, you’ll catch yourself opening that armoire in the attic realizing you floated up those stairs like you were riding on a feather.

Here’s to your healthy knees!

For more knee exercises, read this article.

P.S. Do you struggle climbing stairs – up or down? Have you tried side-stepping? What has your doctor told you about your knee issues? Have you noticed improvement with exercise? Please share your thoughts and experiences with our community!



  1. Hi Michel. Thank you for very interesting article. I always was trying to keep good shape but when getting older its more and more difficult to maintain simple tasks like climbing stairs. There are good days and bad days but in general what I am trying to do is to be active (walking every day) and keep healthy diet. But some of your advices are really good, and Im looking forward to test them in practice.

  2. Thanks for a very interesting article here. A few years ago, I don’t think it would have interested me much. However, scarily enough, even though I’m still relatively fit (touches wood), this topic interests me more. I think it’s just me getting old that makes me start to think about such things. And the old knees are starting to play up Oh NO! LOL

    1. Yes, it’s true Kwidzin, the older we get the more niggles we get, and only then do we start paying more attention to our bodies and how to look after them.

  3. Hi Michel, Thanks for the post. I haven’t read many posts like this one, but it is oh, so relevant! As we age, it does become more difficult to climb stairs. Perhaps it is because we get into bad habits. I will try some of your suggestions. Oh, to feel like you are floating on air, again. I remember running up and down those stairs when I was a kid.

    1. I know, it is horrible how we slow down as we age, but the important thing is to look after what we have so that we can ‘slow down gracefully.’

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