5 Reasons to Try Rock Climbing
Are you looking for a fun outdoor sport for spring? While rock climbing might seem ultra-adventurous and a bit out the box for you, it’s well worth a try. In addition to being a great way to meet other people and spend an afternoon, rock climbing boasts numerous health benefits.
Here are 5 Reasons to go for Rock Climbing
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Offers a Full-Body Workout
Think that it’s your arms and hands that do all the “heavy lifting” in rock climbing? Think again. While your upper body plays an important role in the reaching, gripping, and pulling associated with climbing up a rock wall, it is also your core and leg muscles that get a workout with a good climb. Propelling and pushing off of foot and handholds, as well as stabilizing and balancing your body to prevent a fall engages muscle groups from your calves, hamstrings, and glutes, to your abs and obliques.
Naturally, engaging your body’s muscles through strenuous activity like rock-climbing helps to build strength and stamina. Rock climbing can easily burn over 500 calories in an hour as well, more so if you limit your rest periods and increase the intensity of your climb. With any physical activity that shreds muscles to build them back stronger, delayed onset muscle soreness may occur. Interesting, however, a 2018 study found that cold water immersion may help rock climbers’ handgrip recover faster than passive recovery methods.
Rock climbing is a true test of flexibility – how loose are your joints? Can you reach up high to grasp the next handhold? How far can your legs stretch to meet the next ledge? Rock climbing isn’t just the product of endurance and strength; rather, you need limber muscles and fully mobile joints to be successful (and prevent injury). Flexibility boosting practices like yoga may serve as a helpful complement to a rock climbing hobby.
An integral part of rock climbing is understanding and controlling your center of gravity as you climb further and further up the wall. Rock climbing requires constantly adjusting your own body posture to compensate for the horizontal and vertical forces challenging your equilibrium; this uniquely utilizes both sensory and motor input to the brain. Honing your sense of balance comes with continued rock climbing practice, but may also be achieved with side routines working on balance disks and stability balls.
Builds Mental Stamina
Like many sports, rock climbing tests your mental endurance just as much as your physical. From simply maintaining your confidence and willpower to helping you problem-solve and figure out what your next move is and the move after that, the mental workout you achieve with rock climbing is powerful and helps contribute to your “flow” too.
What is “flow” exactly? Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi of the University of Chicago gave the name “flow” to the “altered consciousness” you experience when you are in the heat of peak performance. Essentially, the body produces feel-good neurochemicals including endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine during this unique efficiency exchange and problem-solving becomes almost immediate. Your focus and streamlined decision-making fuels a stronger performance and induces stress relief.
Alternatives to Rock Climbing
If you’re interested in rock climbing but want to start with an activity and little less daunting, try one of these fun alternatives at home or in the gym:
The whole body engagement on four limbs as well as required stability control is similar in crawling as it is with rock climbing. Crawling actually became a trending fitness activity in 2017, with personal trainers and sports coaches touting its many benefits. To increase the challenge of crawling, experts recommend getting up on your toes and fingertips more like a bear.
You can strengthen hand muscles with integrative fitness tools like grip strengtheners, stress balls, therapy putty, and other hand and finger exercises. In addition to improving dexterity, hand exercise equipment strengthens key forearm and hand muscles to bolster wrist, grip, and pinch strength too.
This rope and harness-free version of rock climbing involves traversing over natural rock formations and boulders, still using your whole body, but fighting less against the pull of gravity. Look on Meetup.com for local rock climbing or bouldering groups to get started.
Typically completed as a team-building or summer camp activity, ropes courses feature a variety of different obstacles and structural challenges that require physical and mental acuity to overcome. You might even consider facing a fear of heights with a zip line adventure prior to rock climbing.
Other high-flying fitness activities that are sure to give your sense of adventure a run for its money include trapeze, indoor skydiving, and aerial (or anti-gravity) yoga. Search online for local fitness centers and studios that offer you these unique opportunities to exercise while flying out of your comfort zone.