Try Bouldering at a Climbing Gym

A great all-weather activity to add to your workout routine is indoor bouldering. All the necessary gear is available at your local climbing gym, and with nearly 600 climbing gyms across the country, it’s easy to find one close by.

Climbers invented bouldering to practice difficult moves close to the ground safely. Since no ropes are required, it’s great for beginner climbers. Bouldering is especially beneficial for older athletes to strengthen areas that typically decline with age.

Grip strength: Loss of grip strength impacts everyday life, from being able to open jars to brushing your teeth to picking up your grandchildren. A 2018 British Medical Journal study reported higher grip strength is associated with longer life. Bouldering strengthens your grip.

Balance: After age 40, the ability to balance declines, which is linked to falls. A 2016 Center for Disease Control study cited falls are the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries among people over 65 years old. Balance is a vital part of bouldering as you need to center yourself in the middle of your body and close to the wall.

Get outside your comfort zone: “Do something that scares you every day.” This approach helps you grow confidence and stay open to new opportunities. Bouldering makes it easy to push outside your comfort zone. Climbing gyms clearly mark each route with a standard grading system from V0 – V17: the higher the number, the harder the route. Start easy and work your way up.

Here’s how to get started: 

  1. Take a series of lessons or do an intro session: Venturing into a climbing gym for the first time can be intimidating. Working with a trainer will help you feel comfortable in the environment and learn the basics.
  2. Wear non-constricting clothes: Full mobility for your arms and legs allows you to reach the hand or foot holds.  
  3. Trim your nails: Using your full fingertip pads to grab holds makes it easier. Nails get in the way.
  4. Trust your feet: Beginner climbers inaccurately believe that climbing is mostly arm strength. Balancing and using your feet is actually where most of your strength lies.
  5. Start slow and build up: Begin with the easy routes. Start with short sessions as your forearms will fatigue quickly. Climb within your ability. Give yourself ample recovery time between climbing sessions to help prevent tendonitis and build forearm strength.
  6. Do a traverse: Climbing the entire route bottom to top can feel too high for new climbers. Instead, practice traversing where you climb laterally across the wall and right above the floor. Traversing can be a great way to build strength and confidence before committing to climbing all the way to the top.  
  7. Be social: Climbing is a social sport. Figuring out a route requires some problem solving, and climbers love to work on this together. If you ever get stuck or see someone working on a route you want to try, you can strike up a conversation and ask questions. It’s a great way to make friends.

Give it a try and have some fun.

Throughout the “Active You” section of this blog, we will introduce you to ideas on staying active and learning new things. 

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