The recent boom in rock climbing’s popularity has been great for both the general strength and well-being of Australia’s casual climbers, and also for more serious participants. The decision to have climbing included as an event in the Tokyo Olympic Games was evidence of rock climbing’s growing popularity. What often tends to go unnoticed, however, is just how beneficial climbing can be as a sensory or rehabilitation exercise for those suffering from injuries or disabilities. Discovery Climbing has set itself the goal of not only bringing to light the benefits of rock climbing for those with disabilities, but also to develop and distribute small-scale rock walls at manageable price points.

In addition to building or rebuilding strength and coordination, small-scale climbing walls can have significant benefits on sensory development. Occupation therapist Claire Heffron even incorporates rock climbing into her therapy regime for children, due to its benefits to cognition, coordination, and even sensory processing. “When it comes to the development and integration of the sensory systems, rock climbing is pretty much an occupational therapist’s dream come true,” she said. “Kids get great proprioceptive input (sensory input to the muscles and joints) as they hoist themselves from hold to hold, and then there’s the vestibular (movement-based) experience of gliding back down to the floor.”

The mental benefits are also significant. A study published by Adapted Physical Activity Quarterly, titled Effect of indoor wall climbing on self-efficacy and self-perceptions of children with special needs, highlighted how large an impact climbing can have for young, differently abled people. After six weeks of climbing, the children’s self-efficacy – that is, their judgment of well they can handle
situations based on their own abilities – improved dramatically.

As for cognitive disabilities, a blog published by School Specialty in the US outlined how useful indoor rock climbing can be for perception and discernment. Action concepts, such as on and off, up and down, go and stop, are all naturally incorporated into rock climbing and are experienced both verbally and kinaesthetically. Moreover, the problem solving and decision making inherent to rock climbing serve to further develop cognitive function. Such skills have also been found to translate well into more academic settings, too. 

There are also a number of potential cross-curricular activities that can be included with rock climbing. For example, if the holds were marked with numbers, children could be tasked with only using those marked with prime numbers, or odd numbers. Additionally, there are ways to incorporate communicative exercises too, such as having the child’s peers announce which holds the climber can or cannot use while trying to reach their goal. Activities such as this serve to exacerbate the already-prevalent mental and cognitive development that rock climbing delivers.

But despite the effectiveness of rock climbing for physical and neurodevelopment and rehabilitation, a major barrier for entry for clinics and educational centres is the typical size – and associated costs– of rock climbing walls. Discovery Climbing is committed to bringing climbing to all who can benefit from it, no matter how small the wall may be. For this reason, we are able to provide just a small number of holds and crashmats, and install them on a temporary wall or even an existing structural
wall – all for as close to cost price as possible. 

For more information on small-scale rock climbing walls for sensory development and rehabilitation, contact us today on 0455 158 223 or info@discoveryclimbing.com.au.