A growing number of people in search of a new sport are taking up climbing. Despite its image as an athletic sport, beginners will find it easy to get started.
Almost anyone can begin climbing. Most people start indoors at climbing walls, as these offer ease of access, are subject to health and safety requirements and are not dependent on weather conditions. At beginner level, climbing can cater for people of all ages, fitness levels, and abilities. Climbing offers a unique combination of physical and mental health benefits.
Climbing works multiple muscle groups, both in the upper and lower body. Your back, abdominal muscles and legs all get exercised as well as your ﬁngers, shoulders and arms. Regular climbing can also improve your overall stamina.
Evidence shows that physical activity of any kind can help people with mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety. Climbing involves concentration and thought as well as physical exercise which helps keep you focused, clears your mind of outside worries and also builds your confidence and self-esteem, alleviating the symptoms of some mental health problems.
Climbing is also about planning ahead and puzzle-solving, this can help improve your physical coordination and is thought to help people who suffer from dyspraxia. It also helps build upper limb strength and stability, which some people with dyspraxia often lack.
Most people start climbing at indoor climbing walls which usually offer introductory sessions with a qualified instructor. These can be for different age groups or ability levels and the wall operator should provide the essential equipment you need for hire, these being a climbing harness and special climbing shoes; although some centres may allow you to use trainers - but tight footwear is essential.
Make sure you wear comfortable, unrestrictive clothing. If you are climbing outdoors on rock, more equipment such as ropes and protection will be needed and this may be available for hire from outdoor activity providers, although as you begin to progress you may want to purchase your own. Ask an instructor for advice on what you need to buy.
People often worry about the safety of climbing, particularly if they have a fear of heights, but it has an excellent safety record as a sport, providing you have the right equipment and take expert advice, especially when you start out. There are different styles and ability-level climbs – it’s all about choice and experience. You are very unlikely to get injured on an indoor wall climb with someone holding you against falls on a rope.
Mountaineering Scotland offers helpful advice about climbing on their website.
ClimbScotland's website offers special advice for children and young people interested in the sport.