As modern life becomes more sedentary, it’s crucial that parents and teachers find fun, engaging ways for children to participate in physical activity. Not only does rock climbing strike the perfect balance between fun and exercise, it brings a host of other benefits, too.
Chief among them is what is known as “physical literacy”. Physical literacy encompasses an array of attributes, beyond strength and fitness. It comprises physical, psychological, social, and cognitive benefits. Physical benefits include improved skill, strength and fitness, while the psychological benefits are an improvement to the attitudes and emotions we have towards movement, and how they affect our confidence and motivation to continue moving. The social aspect refers to a person’s interactions with others in relation to physical activity, and the cognitive relates to our understanding of how, why, and when they exercise.
Rock-climbing is among the few sports that are able to encapsulate all of these factors. Climbers are rewarded with increased strength and endurance as a result of climbing, as well as with dexterity and balance. The psychological benefits of successfully completing a climb cannot be understated, and the feeling of personal achievement that comes with rock-climbing is hard to beat. It inspires a winning combination of problem-solving, overcoming challenges both physical and mental, all underpinned by the feeling of consistent self-improvement.
Climbing is also a social sport, and while it can be done solo, it’s far more often that climbers participate in groups. While climbing often requires a second person to control the rope – a belayer – there are now automatic belay systems that remove the human element from safety, and allow climbers to get up on the wall solo. Auto belay removes risk, and also allows for simultaneous climbing among friends, making the experience both safer and more enjoyable.
Just because climbers no longer need belayers doesn’t make bringing friends along any less fun, however. Another major part of climbing is the problem-solving aspect – the ability to decipher the ideal route to take to reach the top of the wall. Climbing in groups makes this challenge both easier and more fun. Not only that, bringing friends along for motivation and encouragement is a great way to keep spirits high when overcoming difficult problems.
And yet, despite the myriad of physical, psychological, and social benefits to climbing, the real reason kids can’t get enough of it is because it’s just so much fun.