The health benefits of rock climbing

May 1, 2017

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Lead Copywriter

Several of us at KindHealth are super into climbing and bouldering (climbing without a rope). Lauren, our copywriter, enjoys bouldering at Austin Bouldering Project, and Dillon and Christian, our developers, like to top rope climb (where the rope is anchored at the top) at Crux Climbing Center.

The three of them agree that climbing is challenging in more ways than you’d imagine. Not only is it physically challenging, but mentally as well. We interviewed the three of them about what benefits they’ve noticed since they started climbing.

It builds muscles
Climbing doesn’t just work your arms and hands, it also works your core and legs. It’s a whole body sport; you will strengthen muscles in areas you often forget about like your feet and fingers. Lauren decided to start bouldering after her partner moved to Colorado and she was curious to try climbing in the region. More importantly, she started bouldering to build strength in her arms and hands. After only a few weeks, she found that her hands were able to grip the wall more tightly, and she was able to lift and carry heavier objects. “I couldn’t believe how quickly I began building strength. As a woman, it’s important to me to feel like I’m strong, and bouldering has been a great addition to my workout routine,” Lauren says.

It’s a good workout
According to an article about the benefits of climbing from Huffington Post, you can burn 700 calories an hour. Christian says climbing is even more enjoyable than working out at the gym: “For me it’s a motivation thing. Going to the gym, I could set a goal of lift x 10 times, but when it comes down to it I never really stick to increasing those reps. Lifting 10 pounds more than last week isn’t a very enticing goal. For a climbing wall the motivation is to get to the top, so when I can only get halfway up or can’t figure out the problem, I keep trying and pushing myself till I can do it.”

It forces you to be social
When Lauren first started bouldering, she was afraid that people would judge her for being a newbie. In fact, the opposite happened. People were very welcoming and helpful. At Austin Bouldering Project, they have regular meet-ups such as Ladies’ Night where women can learn new climbing skills as a group. She says, “I enjoy climbing by myself, but it’s really fun to do it with a group who can cheer you on and help you understand the best route to take.”

It encourages strategic thinking
Climbing doesn’t just test your physical strength–it also tests your brain. When you climb, you have to be strategic about where to next put your hands and feet, and this decision factors into whether or not you’ll be able to finish. It’s like figuring out a puzzle. “I focus on solving the problem at hand and don’t really focus on the pain of the work out,” Dillon says.

It forces you to confront your fears
Bouldering has also taught Lauren to face her fear of heights head on. Though she’s still overcoming that fear, bouldering has forced her to confront scenarios that make her feel uncomfortable. “As soon as I reach a certain height, I can feel my fear kick in. My knees get weak, and my brain kicks into overdrive. It takes A LOT for me to push myself to the top. When I do, the sense of accomplishment is overwhelming,” she says.

It’s a lot of fun 
Unlike a lot of exercise routines, climbing is really a blast, particularly when you’re with a group of friends. “For me its just playing,” Dillon says. “I think we are all kids at heart. When I am at the climbing gym I am a kid at the playground.”

If you’re interested in indoor climbing, see what gyms are available in your area. Remember, there are different types of climbing–rope climbing and bouldering without a rope–so make sure you select which one you’re comfortable with. As for gear, you can rent climbing shoes and chalk at the gym, or you can easily spend under $100 to purchase both.