Rock climbing is an excellent form of outdoor fitness training that gets many people enthusiastic about exercising. It allows you to enjoy the great outdoors while getting in solid exercise.
Aside from the physical benefits that will be discussed in greater detail below, the psychological benefits of rock climbing should also be pointed out. The sport requires on the spot planning and decision making, forcing you to overcome your fears and explore both your physical and mental capabilities. This results in a greater self awareness and confidence. This, together with the sense of freedom and adventure that the outdoor experience gives you, makes rock climbing the embodiment of: “Mens sana in corpore sano” (a healthy mind in a healthy body).
Now, let’s take a look at a few of the many fitness benefits rock climbing yields:
Rock climbing is a great strength workout for both your upper and lower body as well as your core. Having to conquer gravity by lifting your own bodyweight to higher ground again and again, makes rock climbing a total body strength training. By gripping and pulling yourself up, your hands arms and shoulders are exercised, while your leg and feet muscles are engaged by reaching for new fixed points and pushing up your body.
The coordination between your lower and upper body in often non horizontal and awkward positions is how your core strength is developed. However, even though rock climbing is a great strength workout for muscles throughout your body, it doesn't train all your muscles. To prevent muscular imbalances, you should pay attention to training the antagonist muscles of the muscles you use most in rock climbing.
While you are climbing, the continuous contraction of your muscles causes your heart to work a lot faster than it would while doing weight repetitions in a gym, since the muscles need a constantly elevated blood supply (because of the continuous nature of the workout). By rock climbing, your body burns around 800 calories in an hour, which is comparable to swimming vigorously for the same amount of time.
Flexibility and Coordination
Rock climbing is never straight forward and you will find your body in positions you would normally never get yourself into. The reaching for awkward holds and points for your hands and feet to grip and secure your position, together with the having to move vertically and horizontally, greatly enhances your flexibility and coordination.
As you can see, the benefits of outdoor rock climbing are numerous. A word of advice is in place though. The forces are exerted on your muscles and joints while you're climbing is not to be taken lightly. To prevent injury, you always need to prepare yourself well physically by doing proper strength training, and you should enjoy the sport in moderation to allow your body to recover from the extreme strain rock climbing can put on it.