You may be tempted to reach for a caffeinated drink next time you’re sleepy at work, but according to a new study, a brisk walk up the stairs may be more effective at waking you up.

The study, published online in Physiology and Behavior, from the University of Georgia, found that 10 minutes of walking up and down stairs at a regular pace was more likely to make volunteers feel energized than drinking 50 milligrams of caffeine. While the feeling was temporary and not likely to last throughout the day, it does suggest a healthier, cheaper, and more effective alternative to soda or energy drinks as a quick “pick-me-up.”

Read: Health Benefits Of Walking: High-Risk Adults Can Avoid Disability

"Office workers can go outside and walk, but weather can be less than ideal. It has never rained on me while walking the stairs," said study author Patrick J. O'Connor in a recent statement. "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."

For the study, the team had one group of volunteers either swallow a caffeine pill containing 50 milligrams of the drug or a placebo. The other group was instead asked to spend 10 minutes walking up 30 flights of stairs at a low-intensity pace. All volunteers were college females who admitted to chronically getting less than 6.5 hours of sleep a night. The volunteers' alertness was measured using a computer-based cognitive test. Results showed no improvements in cognitive abilities for those who took either the caffeine pill or the placebo, but those who walked had small yet noticeable improvements in energy.

While the research may not offer proof that walking up stairs is the ultimate cure for sleep deprivation, it shows how beneficial even the lightest amount of exercise can be. For example, in addition to increasing alertness, a brisk short walk can also elevate mood. According to Prevention, walking, just like any form of exercise, releases endorphins, a type of hormone that reduces stress and anxiety.

Even if you’ve never been particularly active, walking can still be beneficial, no matter when you start. For example, recent research found that regular walking helped senior citizens avoid injury or disability as they aged, even if they were never athletic in their younger years.

So there you have it — increased energy, improved mood, and protection from disability are just three of the many reasons to skip the bus this morning and walk your way to work. And then take the stairs on your lunch break.

Source: Randolph DD, O'Connor PJ, Stair walking is more energizing than low dose caffeine in sleep deprived young women. Physiology & Behavior, 2017

See Also:

On National Walking Day, Experience The Benefits Of Walking

Regular Walks Are Good For The Body And Mind