7 Ways Indoor Rock Climbing Can Strengthen Mind and Body

The sky’s the limit!

Sportswoman climber moving up an artificial indoor wall.

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It’s the ultimate extreme sport. The feeling of hanging on only by a short handhold to a rough rock face, with one’s head in the clouds and the whole world spread out beneath, is impossible to duplicate in any other sport.

Rock climbers push themselves to their physical and mental limits as they scramble up cliffs in pursuit of the apex.

This sport made its big Olympic debut at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, CNN reports. But it isn’t just for Olympians. Anyone can reap the myriad advantages of rock climbing. And if going out into the Great Outdoors isn’t practical, indoor rock climbing confers a number of benefits upon its practitioners.

Here are seven reasons to hit that rock gym near you! 

Improves heart health and muscle building

Surprisingly, rock climbing gets the heart rate up as much as running or cycling. A study from the British Journal of Sports Medicine showed that indoor rock climbing has the same cardiovascular impact as running eight to ten minutes per mile.

Indoor rock climbing doesn’t just strengthen the heart muscle. This full body workout engages nearly all major muscle groups, claims Health Fitness Revolution. The core abdominal muscles,  forearms and biceps, quads and calves and everything in between are all involved in helping climbers clamber up that wall.

Girl climbing a rock indoor wall.

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Burns calories and fat

According to Harvard Health Publications, a 155-pound person can burn up 818 calories while rock climbing and up to 596 rappelling down. 

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It’s no surprise that this workout keeps athletes toned and trim. According to a study in the Journal of Human Kinetics, professional climbers tend to have lower BMIs and better hand grips.

Improves flexibility

“Climbing helps you be aware of your body and improves the way you move your body.” CNN cites Nick WIlkes, a climbing guide in Madison, Wisconsin.

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This sport requires climbers to stretch and contort their bodies and to balance in small crevices and handholds. It requires scaling and reaching that improves overall flexibility.

Improves coordination

And rock climbing doesn’t just involve physical agility. Adventure HQ explains that the need to constantly be on the lookout for new handholds, crevices and ascent strategies boosts problem solving abilities, spatial awareness and hand-eye coordination.

According to CNN, this can have real-world impact as well. A University of North Florida study demonstrated that rock climbing could improve working memory by up to 50%. Zack DiCristino, the physical therapist and medical manager of USA’s national climbing team explains, “climbing is very cognitive in nature.”

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Enhances communication

When hanging in the air 100 feet off the ground, the last thing a climber wants is a miscommunication. Rapport with the on-ground belayer is key to successfully and safely scaling a wall. The climber must constantly check-in to inform the belayer about rope tension and potential falls.

And of course the belayer has an important role to play in communication as well. Lindsay Wenndt, health coach and fitness trainers explains to NEWS 21: "If I'm the one holding the rope, it's my job to give encouragement when my partner feels she can't do a certain move, point out a more efficient way to complete a route and be her biggest cheerleader when she crushes a new obstacle or goal."

Indoor rock climbers making a high five gesture.

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Fights fear

Health Fitness Revolution describes the self-confidence boost that comes from conquering one's fears. Climbers confront their fear of heights head-on, with the harness providing the security that keeps the exercise at one’s comfort level.

CNN cites Wilkes, “[Climbing] is a great mirror that shows you how to deal with fear, disappointment and success, and how you deal with the rest of your life as well. 

Woman rising to the challenge of indoor rock climbing.

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Keeps chronic disease at bay

According to Health Fitness Revolution, rock climbing can prevent heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and other chronic diseases. Adventure HQ explains that, like any other sustained strenuous exercise, rock climbing fights some chronic diseases. But it also has the added benefit of fighting chronic stress and depression, according to CNN. A study in Germany showed that rock climbing is effective psychotherapy against depression. 

With all these benefits of rock climbing, there’s no reason not to put that belay on and climb on at a rock gym near you.

A group of people preparing for rock climbing at the gym.

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