Feature Article - April 2009
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The Height of Adventure

Climbing Walls for Exercise & Recreation

By Richard Zowie


hether they live in the neighborhood of the Rocky Mountains, the Grand Canyon or the Himalayas, or just in the midst of cornfields or city skylines, people who love to climb can be found in every part of the country. And with the explosion of climbing walls—in fitness centers, recreation facilities, schools and more—it's become easier for these fans of the sport to find a spot to climb. If your facility hasn't yet considered adding climbing to its lineup, read on to learn how you can easily make this change and reap the benefits.

Climb With a Purpose

People have many reasons for using climbing walls. Some enjoy the exercise, while others like the recreation aspect: What more enjoyable way to burn calories than to pretend you're climbing up a mountain? Some might even see climbing walls as a positive tool to help keep kids out of trouble.

Dave Raue, general manager of The Rock Club, a climbing facility in New Rochelle, N.Y., finds all of these are valid reasons for people to use climbing walls. There are even competitive wall climbers.

While the reasons for climbing vary, Raue believes it can be especially beneficial to kids due to its accessibility, its ability to build confidence and its emphasis on teamwork.

"It's certainly a positive activity," he said. "It's wholesome, fun and social. It's something that I won't say any kid can do, due to some limitations, but for the vast majority of average kids it'll be accessible. I see it as a sport for people who hate sports, meaning kids who participate all get to do it. There are no benchwarmers. Everyone can succeed at one level or another."

When wall climbing, you compete against yourself, Raue explained, while others encourage you. He recalled a mother whose daughter tried climbing for the first time at a Christmas vacation camp.

"The mother said her daughter literally transformed," Raue recalled. "[It] gave her something to succeed at. She'd never seen her happier or more fulfilled. The mom was almost in tears describing it."

The Rock Club finds itself busy all year round. Summers bring day camps while winters bring outside climbers who wish to keep up their skills and train for the outdoor season.

"Over the holidays there's a lot more families and little kids," Raue added.