July 18, 2024

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The Health Benefits of Rock Climbing for Body and Mind

3 min read

As far as workouts go, rock climbing is about as full-body as it gets—not only does it target the arms, back, and shoulders, but it also engages the legs and the core to improve strength and flexibility. And, that’s not all: rock climbing is also an incredible workout for the mind: it takes an immense amount of concentration, focus, and spatial awareness to scale a vertical wall, after all. Not to mention, confidence and courage.

“Touching the last hold on a wall provides an incredible feeling of pride, whatever the level,” explains Gregory De Belmont, co-founder of the climbing gyms Arkose, which has dozens of locations in France, Belgium, and Spain.

With all that, it’s no wonder rock climbing—which was officially designated an Olympic sport at the Summer Olympics in Tokyo in 2020—is more popular now than ever before. Want to give it a try? Read on to learn everything you need to know about climbing to the top of this burgeoning sport.

Climbing to the top

“The climbing market has been growing strongly in recent years, mainly boosted by the proliferation of places to practice,” explains De Belmont, whose own rock climbing gyms have expanded to over 20 locations in the last 10 years. He says the appeal comes down to the fact that climbing and bouldering (a type of climbing that does not utilize a tether or rope) is a “complete” sport, one that evokes nature and engages the mind, body, and spirit.

It’s also very fun, social, and accessible—almost anyone can try it, and beginners and experts often climb together in the same place. “Bouldering rooms require less ceiling height and are therefore easier to develop in cities, perfectly meeting the need for sports practice and community connection,” De Belmont explains. “The Olympics was a media success for climbing throughout the world. We noticed a slight increase in new climbers in the days following the Olympics. And, due to the pandemic, outdoor practice has also greatly increased—perhaps because of people’s new appreciation for nature.”

The health benefits of rock climbing for body and mind

As mentioned, rock climbing is a full-body workout that hits almost every part of the body—including fingers and toes. “It is a very complete sport muscularly since it mobilizes the upper and lower limbs, as well as the abdominal area and the back,” says De Belmont. “It also greatly improves flexibility.”

While rock climbing isn’t really a “cardio” workout—the efforts are usually short and intense or methodical and steady—it does provide an incredible boost for the mind. “We want to go to the top of the block or the route so we motivate ourselves to get there,” De Belmont says. “Climbing requires concentration; it really clears your head. It’s the perfect after-work sport.”

Rock climbing for all

You don’t need to be as fit or courageous as Elnaz Rekabi to try your hand at the sport. In fact, most first-timers are surprised at how accessible and fun rock climbing is, even if they don’t consider themselves super strong or fit at first. “To perform up to a certain (very good) level, there is no ideal body type,” says De Belmont. “For example, I am thin and lean and I’m at the same level as friends who are more muscular but heavier. It’s really about combining power, weight, strength, coordination, flexibility, and concentration.”

How to start rock climbing

For those who want to experience the health benefits of rock climbing, De Belmont offers this important advice: “Don’t put pressure on yourself,” he says. “The main thing is to have fun.” He also offers these practical tips:

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