Climb to Fitness | Health Benefits of Rock Climbing

Health Benefits of Rock Climbing

Whether it’s the great outdoors or indoors at an extreme sports centre or gym, climbing is easily one of the best all-over workouts you can get. Part resistance training, part cardio and then an added injection of adrenaline, climbing is the thinking adrenaline junky’s exercise that you may not have considered.
2 for 1: get your cardio and strength training in one workout.


Climbing is a unique exercise in that it strengthens your muscles while you simultaneously perform a cardio workout. Okay, so you could say the same for others, such as running and swimming, but with climbing you are working in a similar way to how you would on weight training day in the gym, using your body weight in place of barbells and cable machines.


According to a study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, the cardio and energy consumed in rock climbing is similar to running at a pace between 8 and 11 minutes per mile. That doesn’t even account for how much your heart will be racing with adrenaline, all the while requiring you to think on your feet, sharpening your mind as you think up your next move.

Rock Climbing 1

And what about calorie burning?


Well, given the cardio workout and all the muscle groups you’ll be putting to use, you probably already know it’s good for fat loss. Harvard Health Publications reported that a 155-pound person burns about 818 calories hourly during a rock-climbing ascent and 596 calories per hour while rappelling.

Which muscles does it work?


Climbing puts both your upper and lower body to work. Your leg muscles, core, shoulders, arms and even your fingers will get a workout, and, given the reaching, stretching and holding of positions that are involved, you’ll not only strengthen your muscles but also improve your flexibility, balance and agility at the same time.


If you envision yourself on a rock wall, one arm outstretched to pull you up and a leg curled with your foot by your waist, you can see how there really aren’t many muscles that are not involved. Pull up motions will use your lats, forearms, biceps and delts while pushing yourself up to support yourself will work your traps, chest and triceps. Pushing yourself up from a squatting position (however that may mean your leg is bent) means that you’re using your glutes and hamstrings, while your calf muscles and quads will be active much of the time in keeping yourself steady. Above all, your core will be in constant use, working and toning your abs, both stretching and contracting.

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Strengthening and toning


You might consider climbing among mid-to-low impact exercise (compared to running). But if you’re making comparisons to other toning and strengthening activities, ie. yoga and pilates, a good-length climbing session will provide a much more rigorous workout for the duration.

What other health benefits does it provide?


As with other forms of physical exercise, climbing can help with stress management. It can provide self-esteem in the form of a literal wall to be conquered. Furthermore, many climbers suggest that a fear of heights can be cured by rock climbing when built up gradually. Facing fears is also good for confidence – another plus for your overall mental health.


Another interesting fact you may not know is that the NHS cites rock climbing as good for people with dyspraxia, a developmental co-ordination disorder. This is because it provides a stable environment for planning movements – something people with dyspraxia often struggle with.

Our articles should be used for informational and educational purposes only and are not intended to be taken as medical advice. If you’re concerned, consult a health professional before taking dietary supplements or introducing any major changes to your diet.

Charlotte Campbell

Charlotte Campbell


Charlotte is a fitness and nutrition writer and blogger based in Manchester. Her articles have been featured in Cosmopolitan and the London Evening Standard.

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