Benefits of Rock Climbing
Not very long ago, rock climbing was considered an extreme sport. Even now, as climbing gains enormous popularity, many people still consider it a dangerous and risky activity. But what happens when you weigh the risks and the benefits? I may be biased since I, and most of the people I associate with, are avid climbers, but I believe that the holistic benefits of rock climbing far outweigh the potential risks. Rock climbing benefits the climber physically, mentally, and socially.
Rock Climbing as Exercise
Rock climbing probably won’t make you Arnold Schwarzenegger, but it will tone and define your muscles. It works your entire body, even muscles you didn’t even know you had! As a new climber, you may use mostly arm and back muscles, but more advanced climbers rely on their legs and core just as much as their arms and fingers. Different types of climbing work provide different workouts, for instance, bouldering requires short bursts of intense work, while roped climbing requires longer, more sustained efforts. Outdoor climbing usually requires at least a short hike with the weight of your gear to reach the crag, adding extra cardiovascular exercise.
Climbing is also low impact and improves posture, flexibility, body awareness, and balance. It’s the perfect sport for literally any age and ability level.
Rock Climbing for Mental Health
The mental component of rock climbing is often overlooked by non-climbers, but is just as important, if not more important, than the physical component. First and foremost, rock climbing relieves stress:
1. the physical activity of climbing releases endorphins which mitigate stress and
2. the absolute mental focus the climber has to maintain over his or her body position and balance as they move towards the next hold becomes a sort of active meditation which clears the mind and also relieves stress.
Long term stress can cause high blood pressure, trouble sleeping, and head-aches. It has also been linked to fat build up.
Apart from relieving stress, rock climbing sharpens mental acuity and problem solving skills. Though there are often multiple ways to climb a route, there is usually a "right" sequence, especially in bouldering or when blasting the crux on a hard sport climb. Climbers will often ‘work’ a route or ‘project’ a problem, meaning that they keep trying the same route with small or radical adjustments in position or sequence.
Most importantly, rock climbing requires supreme mental control-- the ability to quell certain instinctual fears such as heights or falling. The accomplishment of sending (finishing) a route is self-affirming, and overcoming fears builds confidence, not just in climbing, but in other areas of life such as school and work.
Rock Climbing Community
Though climbing is essentially an individual sport, a climber’s relationship to his or her climbing partner is paramount. Trust, accountability, and clear communication must be established between the belayer and climber.
The rock climbing community is particularly accepting, making it easy to meet new people and build relationships. The indoor climbing gym is a great place to meet other climbers and to search for a compatible climbing partner. Not only might you find a lifelong friend and climbing partner, but you may find the #1 benefit of rock climbing-- a date!