Still stumped by two down on your daily crossword? Try walking up two flights of stairs, scientists suggests

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Written By Maya Cantina

If you’re struggling to finish the crossword or just suffering from a bout of writer’s block, there might be a simple solution.

New research shows taking a few minutes out to climb up and down just two flights of stairs could be enough to kick-start the cognitive process.

Researchers in Japan found a quick burst of aerobic exercise from walking up two floors was all that was needed to bolster volunteers’ problem-solving abilities.

Taking a break or going for a walk round the block has long been the general advice for anyone trying to get their head round a particular problem.

Physical activity gets blood circulating to the brain, which may help with concentration.

Researchers in Japan found a quick burst of aerobic exercise from walking up two floors was all that was needed to bolster volunteers’ problem-solving abilities

But it’s never been clear just how much exercise is needed to achieve this effect.

A team of scientists from Yamaguchi University in Japan recruited 52 participants in their twenties and gave them each a test to complete, in order to assess their problem-solving abilities and capacity for creative thinking.

They then split them up and got some to take the lift up eight floors, others to climb all eight floors and the rest to just go up two flights of steps.

Afterwards, all the recruits were given a second set of tests on problems and creative thinking.

The results, in the journal Scientific Reports, showed those who took the stairs performed much better second-time round than those in the elevator.

And the best results were seen in those who climbed just two flights.

Tests on volunteers who hiked up eight storeys found it was less effective than two, possibly because it was more physically demanding and less enjoyable.

Other studies have found regularly using the stairs instead of lifts can reduce the risk of a heart attacks and strokes by up to 20 per cent.

And a recent investigation by scientists in South Korea found just 20 seconds of stair climbing a few times a week can help obese men and women lose weight and boost their fitness.

In a report on their findings the Japanese team said: ‘This study highlights the substantial impact of brief, very light-intensity physical activity – exemplified by two-flight stair climbing.’

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