Bouldering is a more stripped back form of climbing on low rock formations without a rope or harnesses but instead with a wall and safety mats below. The challenge here is to climb short but tricky bouldering “problems” (a route, or sequence of moves) using balance, technique, strength, and your brain. It's pretty simple to get into because you don’t need much equipment, just the right shoes and a bag of chalk.
While running, cycling, rowing and most conventional gym workouts teach the body to perform consistent, repetitive motions that build strength and increase fitness, climbing offers an endlessly variable series of movements that can benefit you in multiple ways. Here’s a few:
Full body workout
When bouldering, you’ll be working your upper and lower body muscles. The muscles on your back and arms will be engaged as you pull yourself up, and you’ll have to use the muscles of your core, quads, and calves to stabilise your body while climbing. Working all of these muscles in a single workout makes your time spent more effective and is a great alternative for those who don’t have the time to go to the gym multiple times a week to work out on different muscle groups separately.
More range of motion and flexibility
Bouldering pushes you to move your body up, down, and to the sides. This constant change in direction requires your body to adapt and learn various motions effectively, improving your flexibility. This helps to improve everyday activities like carrying groceries, reaching to grab items in a cabinet, or picking up something from the floor.
According to Jiří Baláš, a faculty researcher and lecturer at Charles University in Prague, an average 70kg person will burn between eight and ten calories per minute while climbing. So, depending on height, weight, age and gender, an average man or woman can burn up to 600 calories per hour of average intensity rock climbing, which is equivalent to two McDonalds cheeseburgers.
Boost brain function
Bouldering involves a lot of problem-solving and body awareness that can improve brain function over time. Every time you climb to a new position on the wall, you’ll need to decide on where best to place your hands and feet to avoid falling as well as shifting your weight to balance yourself properly. These moment-to-moment decisions are a great way to improve your hand eye coordination and the brain’s processing capabilities. A recent study from the University of North Florida also found that climbing helps improve memory and other cognitive functions.
Get a (stronger) grip
Without a doubt, climbing up a rock wall benefits your grip strength because without a strong grip, you probably won’t make it up the wall properly. Improving your grip strength with rock climbing will not only make you better at the sport itself, but it will also benefit you in other areas of training and life: you will be able to lift heavier weights at the gym, hold your bags for longer, or even become better at holding your dog back when it tugs on the leash.
So, what are you waiting for? Almost anyone can try bouldering, and we’ve got more than a dozen rock climbing facilities now so it shouldn’t be hard to find one near you. However, do ensure that you climb at a gym that has proper hygiene and safety SOPs in place.Of course, check with your doctor first if you have a heart condition or any other medical conditions that may pose as a health risk when climbing, especially if you’re afraid of heights. Bouldering is a great way to build strength, coordination and fitness.