Rock climbing has long been regarded as the sort of pastime you undertake when you’re young, carefree and blissfully ignorant of your own limitations, much like bungee jumping, sky diving, or voting for the Green Party. You don’t do it for the practical benefits, you do it for the rush, the freedom and because you can just imagine the looks of your parents’ faces if they could see what you were doing!
Or is it just that to it, after all?
In actuality, rock climbing does have many benefits not just to your self-esteem and sense of free-spirited adventure, but also many health benefits too. In hindsight, this may be obvious. Rock climbing involves every muscle in your body to fulfil a very physically demanding task. But what are the benefits exactly?
Stronger Muscles, Stronger Heart
A common misconception about rock climbing is that it’s all in the upper-body and that it all requires is some strong arms and shoulders. This is actually only partially true. Getting up a boulder or cliff face does require a good deal of strength in the shoulders, but equally important are strong legs, careful balance and lean muscles. You’ll have a lot harder time climbing up a wall if you had 300lbs of muscle compared to 220lbs. Indeed, you can expect to see improvements in:
- Your arms and shoulders
- Your thighs
- Back and neck
- And your heart – don’t forget that’s a muscle too.
As mentioned above, rock climbing is a very physically demanding exercise that utilises pretty much every area of your body. Even your fingers and toes will get a work out from having to grip and find purchase on a variety of different surfaces. The body becomes stronger, more durable and able to take on more punishment than ever before too long.
Not only does it build strength, but it also builds agility flexibility. As all the movement is very natural and free formed, as opposed to the more rigid and repeated exercises you may undergo in a gym, your body builds strength while also being moved around in a variety of ways. This stretches out the muscles, allowing for a greater range of movement than would otherwise be possible. A rock climber can be just as strong as a weight-lifter while still being able to easily move any part of their body.
Likewise, stamina also improves immensely. Again, every muscle is utilised when climbing, so the workout can be very exhausting. Your cardiovascular system can quickly see its performance improved several times over, allowing for longer, more difficult climbs with less exertion.
The Mind and Spirit
As well as physical health benefits, you can also see less obvious improvements after taking the time to learn rock climbing. Perhaps among the first things noticed is improved confidence. When you can climb up a cliff face like a set of stairs, you’ll quickly learn you can do anything if you set your mind to it. In addition, you’ll also be a lot calmer and more focused as all exercise helps to reduce stress and anxiety, improving your mental well-being and by extension your physical well-being as well.
Your brain will also receive a workout as the activity frequently involves problem solving, working out effective strategies and constantly calculating distances and times. It also demands focus, clarity and constantly thinking only of the task in hand, in many ways a mind-state similar to meditation. The mental benefits that can be gleaned from rock climbing are among the most overlooked, but can also provide the most overall benefit to a climber’s lifestyle and outlook.
Perhaps another overlooked benefit is the ability to teach people to overcome fear and doubt. A fear of heights is quite natural – falling from them can really hurt, after all. However, even those with a fear of heights can undertake rock climbing, and indeed many would say that the mindset is highly beneficial. It means you respect the dangers of the sport and are more likely to take the extra precautions when undergoing it, while taking fewer risks. Eventually, the more you climb, the easier it is for individuals to start driving through their fear and undertaking greater challenges and, through them, greater rewards.
Healthy benefits occur, whether you’re a beginner practicing indoors at a facility or out conquering the great outdoors. Though, if you are climbing up and repelling down big rocks outside, be sure that you don’t leave without bringing all the proper gear. You can store everything in a light-weight, waterproof bag, like the ones Adventure Lion offers, for easy carrying.
Christian Mills is a man who seeks adventure and is always up for thrills. He enjoys the outdoors and shares his experiences and tips into outdoorsports and their benefits. If you would like to learn more about Christian, you can check out his Google+ profile.