Rock climbing feels like a fun adventure, but it’s also a heck of a workout whether you are bouldering or sport climbing, outside or in a gym.
So, is rock climbing good for weight loss?
Rock climbing certainly can be good for weight loss as part of a healthy lifestyle. If you are looking to become more active and maybe shed a few pounds, rock climbing is a fun, challenging, and interesting way to do so. It’s a full-body workout that builds strength and cardio as well as improves flexibility and balance.
Let’s look at each of these aspects of rock climbing as a weight loss tool in more detail.
Climbing Is For Everyone
First, it’s important to note that weight loss doesn’t need to be the goal of an activity for it to be healthy and enjoyable, and climbing is for everyone – all body types and body weights are welcome in the sport. There are no weight limits for bouldering or partner-belay sport climbing.
One of the reasons that rock climbing can be a good way to lose weight is that it’s actually enjoyable, and much more engaging than running on a treadmill for hours on end or lifting the same weight over and over. It’s also community-based, in that you can climb with your friends and encourage and motivate each other.
As they say, the best exercise is the exercise that you actually do, and it can be easier to stay on track with a form of exercise that is fun and engaging.
Climbing Is a Comprehensive, Full-Body Workout
Climbing is also a comprehensive workout that involves your whole body and multiple exercise categories.
Rock climbing can push you to the limits of your strength, and it involves all of the major muscle groups in your body. While many people think that climbing requires serious upper body strength, the majority of the power can and should actually come from your legs and glutes. Of course your arms and shoulders are still involved, but don’t let the inability to perform pull-ups or pushups deter you from climbing!
Your core muscles will be engaged to provide stability on the wall and keep your body pulled in tight to the wall, and your back muscles work with your core and arms to help you balance and pull you up the wall.
Rock climbing is also an aerobic exercise, or in other words, good cardio. As it turns out, moving your body vertically up a wall is quite demanding and can push your heart rate up into the 120-180 BPM range.
Flexibility and Balance
Climbing improves your flexibility and balance as well. You’ll be reaching and stretching for the next hold on a route, balancing on small hand- and foot-holds, and otherwise contorting your body into positions that you wouldn’t otherwise encounter in your daily life. If you don’t consider yourself flexible or well-balanced currently, don’t worry! There are routes and boulder problems available in all different levels from beginner-friendly to expert, so you can improve your fitness, balance, and flexibility slowly over time as you become more confident.
Finally, although it may not seem like it, rock climbing can actually be a relatively low impact activity. Top-rope sport climbing is especially low impact, since if you fall off the wall, you’ll be caught gently and nearly immediately by your harness and the rope. Bouldering gyms typically have very thick padding on the ground, so even if you fall from the wall, you can tuck and roll, limiting impact on your ankles and knees.
How Many Calories Rock Climbing Burns
Exact figures vary, but it’s estimated that rock climbing burns between 5 and 11 calories per minute, which equates to 300 to 660 calories per hour. Of course this varies based on how much time you spend resting between climbs, the difficulty of the routes that you are tackling, and a few other factors.
The CDC classifies rock climbing as a “vigorous activity” and assigns it a metabolic equivalent unit or MET value of 6-11. For comparison, casual biking has a MET value of 6 and skiing has a MET value of 6-8.
So, rock climbing does burn a significant amount of calories, and since it activates all the big muscle groups, it can also increase your resting metabolic rate – essentially it gives you an ‘afterburn’ that helps you burn more calories throughout the day even after you are done climbing.
How do you lose weight by rock climbing?
Rock climbing is an intense form of exercise, so pairing it with a healthy diet and plenty of water and sleep can certainly be an effective method of losing weight. Especially since it’s generally considered to be more fun and engaging than typical gym workouts (treadmills, lifting weights, etc.), many people find that it’s easier to be more consistent about climbing workouts which leads to greater success at losing weight.
Will rock climbing get you in shape?
Rock climbing regularly will definitely improve your strength, cardio, flexibility, and balance. However, diet is just as important as exercise when it comes to physical fitness, and even intense climbing sessions multiple times per week likely won’t be able to overcome a poor diet in terms of weight loss.
Are rock climbers skinny?
Many of the professional rock climbers that are featured in the news and on social media are thin and toned, but that’s not representative of all climbers. In the same way that someone who casually swims laps wouldn’t expect to have the physique of Michael Phelps at the peak of his career, it’s unfair to you to compare yourself physically to professional climbers.