7 Mental Benefits of Rock Climbing
Updated: Aug 15
While there are many obvious physical benefits of rock climbing, there are equally as many, if not more, mental benefits of rock climbing as well! Whether bouldering alone in a gym or hanging out at the crag with friends, rock climbing has positive benefits for your mental health.
1. Social Benefits
For many people, having someone to share experiences with enhances the experience itself. Climbing alone can help clear one’s mind and be a great fitness activity. But climbing with a partner, or better yet, a community, is where the sport of rock climbing shines. Climbers encourage one another, help in the problem-solving process by sharing beta, and generally motivate each other to show up and try hard! A lot of the safety aspects of climbing also require another climber. As mentioned, climbing can be done alone, but tackling larger obstacles requires other climbers.
For instance, sport or trad climbing requires a belayer, and while bouldering outdoors alone can be done, it is more dangerous. Bouldering with others who will make sure you don’t fall on a rock or roll down a hill will help you try your best; you know others will help you if you fall.
Have you ever noticed climbers gathered near the bouldering wall at a gym with their hands in the air pretending to climb? They’re discussing beta for a problem. Beta is the How To of rock climbing. Climbing a route or boulder problem isn’t always straightforward. Sometimes you must twist your hips a certain way or place your heel on the wall to reach the next move. This is the problem-solving aspect of climbing that, when used effectively, can give a sense of accomplishment.
3. Being Present in The Moment
Rock climbing requires being fully present at the moment. Instead of worrying about the stresses of everyday life, your mind is instead consumed by thinking of where your feet go, or how to grab that one hold.
One second, you’re climbing well, moving up the wall effortlessly, when suddenly, your foot slips, and you fall. You may have climbed this problem many times and felt confused about why you slipped. This is because you weren’t fully present in the moment. To stay in the moment, try focusing on each body movement you make while climbing. For many, climbing is a form of mediation!
Climbing takes confidence. Completing a boulder problem from start to finish requires great mental strength. Standing on that small foothold, stretching for that barely out-of-reach handhold, or controlling the way you fall off the wall all require confidence. Climbing teaches you how to trust in yourself to reach a goal. If you start a climb without believing you’ll make any progress, you’ll surely have a harder time.
5. Comfort Zone
Leaving our comfort zone can be, well, uncomfortable! However, this is where growth happens. It can be uncomfortable to climb past your last piece of protection or to step off the bouldering mat onto the wall.
By climbing and leaving your comfort zone, you can find that you’re more capable than you thought. This can be a driving force in other areas of your life where you may not think you’re good enough. You never know until you try!
6. Overcoming Failure
Failure is inevitable while climbing. Finding a seasoned climber who has never fallen off a wall is extremely rare. When we experience failure while climbing, we have two options: Never climb another day or try again.
By trying again, we can flex our problem-solving skills and leave our comfort zone to overcome failure. Although sometimes, we aren’t ready to try a certain problem. This doesn’t mean we should give up climbing altogether, only that we find something within our limit to maybe one day make us strong enough to climb harder.
7. Climbing Outside
Surrounding oneself with nature has proven to have positive mental health benefits. The quietness of being surrounded by trees or in the open air at the base of a cliff can give a sense of calm that is stifled when surrounded by the constant sounds in cities. By climbing outside, you can appreciate all that nature has to offer while being present in the moment.
Rock climbing may look silly to the non-climber, but we know there is more to it than just covering our hands in chalk and gesturing at the wall. We find a sense of purpose in overcoming obstacles that leak into other aspects of our lives. We create relationships with people who help us be better versions of ourselves. And we quiet our minds by focusing on the thing that brings us joy: rock climbing!