Rock climbing: Reaching for a healthy lifestyle

Rock climbing may bring to mind a lithe body cliff-hanging from a chalky hand, yet you...

Rock climbing may bring to mind a lithe body cliff-hanging from a chalky hand, yet you don't have to be a chiseled athlete to reap the benefits. Whether bouldering on the weekend, rappelling with friends or training for a mountaineering-style trek in the wilderness, younger and older generations can participate in this sport.

Climbing gyms are evermore popular with mainstream fitness centers now including walls and belay instructors to insure a safe and controlled environment for beginners. These walls can serve as a place for those looking for a new way to exercise as rock climbing provides a regime of muscle and cardio conditioning.

Core training

Although you will develop upper body strength, the core tenet of climbing is about finding secure footholds that propel the body upward with support provided by handholds. You'll engage your glutes, thighs, abdomen and back.

Unlike many traditional sports, rock climbing requires a combination of concentric and isometric muscle contraction throughout the body--meaning that climbing utilizes the same muscles in different ways to lift and to hold the body in position, resulting in an entirely unique physiological effect.

Endurance and flexibility

Climbing often entails holding difficult postures for minutes at a time while you plan a next hold, adjust a rope or shift your body across a narrow crevice.

The endurance and agility developed through rock climbing is akin to those involved in yoga where stretching and pose shifting develop a particular type of body strength. More advanced climbers tend to include yoga as cross-training to improve posture and flexibility on the mountain.

Focus and meditation

As you plan your route, either up the climb wall at the gym or by looking at topographic maps of a national park, strategy becomes a crucial element of rock climbing.

There is a sublime meditative feel to climbing because of the intense focus that climbing commands. Daily worries, stress, anxiety and anger quickly recede as you live in the moment. Your only task is to make it to the summit.


Climbing is simply a fun way to stay in shape--indoors or outdoors. Trekking with friends, sharing stories about new ascents or just meeting at the gym to scramble up the climbing wall are incentives to give climbing a try.

Getting started

  • Buy a pair of good quality climbing shoes. It's very important to get the right fit and feel which vary by brand. Different model shoes emphasize design elements such as stiffness of the shoe, softness and texture of the sole.
  • Research local indoor climbing gyms. You will find enthusiastic and experienced companions to set you on a safe course and give you rudimentary training in rope and footwork.
  • Find a local climbing club. It's a wonderful way to get expert advice, socialize and discover the diverse world of climbing.
  • Check out Stone Mountain, Georgia. This mountain is over 800 feet!
  • If you haven't already, get a checkup! Make an appointment with your Atlanta-area physician before attempting any strenuous climbing.

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