10 Reasons Why Mountain Climbing Improves Your Life

A couple of friends leading the Gastlosen traverse with amazing fall’s lights and colors in Switzerland – Reasons Why Mountain Climbing Improves Your Life

Mount Everest, the Himalayas, Mount Kilimanjaro, Matterhorn, the Drakensburg…the list of amazing mountains to climb is incredible.

But mountain climbing has gained a reputation for being a challenging activity reserved only for the fittest, healthiest and bravest athletes. 

While climbing mountains can indeed challenge people in a number of ways, it’s well suited to many different levels of skill and ability. This means that you don’t need to be an expert to enjoy all of the benefits mountain climbing has to offer.

Speaking of benefits, mountain climbing offers a range of physical, mental, emotional, and even social benefits for climbers of all ages and levels of endurance. The aerobic and resistance physical exercise involved in this activity has the power to reduce stress and anxiety levels, boost your fitness and keep your body healthy. And the feeling of achievement when you finally reach the peak can help you to foster a more positive perspective as well. 

Here are 10 key reasons why taking up mountain climbing will improve your life.

1. Enhanced Physical Fitness

One of the most obvious benefits of mountain climbing is that it provides a full-body workout and engages different muscle groups to build holistic fitness. More challenging climbs often require some physical preparation and training. This will help to get you into shape, keep you physically healthy, and prepare you properly so that you can climb mountains with confidence.

Mountaineering is a primarily aerobic form of exercise. This type of exercise can improve the health of your heart, lungs, and circulatory system. All while lowering your blood pressure and ensuring that every organ in your body receives a proper supply of oxygen. Increasing your blood oxygen levels through aerobic exercise has been linked in research and studies to the reduction of symptoms of chronic diseases like type II diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and even certain cancers.

Mountain climbing also helps to control weight by boosting your metabolism, and it enhances your hand-eye coordination and balance. Plus, it improves bone density, especially if you carry heavy packs over longer distances, which adds some strength training to the activity too. It can tone your muscles, improve your endurance levels, and may even improve your sleep quality and mental health thanks to its ability to promote the release of stress-busting endorphins in your body.

2. Stress Reduction

We live in a mentally demanding world. So, it’s no surprise that so many people today deal with high-stress levels. 

Physically demanding activities like mountain climbing will encourage you to get out into nature and focus on strategizing your climb. Doing this can help to take your thoughts off of the office and your responsibilities and keep your mind engaged and focused. Although it’s true that mountaineering can be stressful at times, being in nature with like-minded people will help to keep your stress levels low while you focus on staying safe and making it to the top of the mountain.

According to the Mayo Clinic, exercise has proven to reduce stress thanks to its ability to promote the release of endorphins. These endorphins counter the effects of stress, improve your mood, and lead to better sleep and higher energy levels.

3. Learning Persistence

Climbing a mountain is no easy feat. But it can teach you a range of skills that have the power to improve your mental and emotional wellbeing. 

Mountaineering teaches patience, practice, and the power of persistence, even when you encounter obstacles that may discourage you from completing the course. Mountain climbers know that they need to take their routes one step at a time until they reach their goals. This knowledge will translate well into many other areas of your life too! 

Once you know that you can reach a goal by taking it step by step, you can apply the same theory to other areas of your life like work or studies, to reach your objectives and improve your life.

A book by Dr. John J. Ratey, ‘Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain’, offers strong evidence that physical activity primes the brain for better cognitive and learning abilities. According to Ratey, exercise optimizes your mindset and makes you more alert and attentive. It prompts nerve cells to bind to one another and store new information and stimulates the development of new nerve cells in the hippocampus—the brain’s learning center. This means that exercise primes the brain for learning, and it makes information easier to retain.

4. Increasing Confidence

While the emotional benefits of mountain climbing can vary widely between climbers, mountaineering generally has the ability to increase feelings of confidence and pride in your own abilities. Summiting an intimidating peak or rock face can feel like a huge achievement. This impressive achievement is one that you will want to share with friends, family, and even strangers for years to come. 

Climbing can help you to face and conquer any fears you may have, foster a more courageous mindset, and push forward through challenges and doubts. Overcoming barriers like physical exhaustion, hunger, frustration, and hopelessness may bring you more control over your emotions. Additionally, it will help you to place some of your other difficulties in life into perspective so that you can handle them with more confidence and control.

5.  Boosting Physical Flexibility

Maintaining physical flexibility throughout your life can decrease your chances of suffering from joint pain and stiffness later in life. 

The many movements involved in mountain climbing help to mobilize your joints and strengthen your muscle tissues, which in turn improves your flexibility. The more flexible you are, the less likely you are to experience pain, discomfort, and injury after a climb. And the easier it will be to climb another mountain when you’re ready!

People who are more physically flexible experience fewer injuries, less pain, and better posture and balance. They enjoy a more positive state of mind, better muscle strength, and improved physical performance overall, especially when exercising. Flexible people are also better able to withstand physical stress. This can help them to reach their goals, whether these goals involve running a new distance or climbing to the top of the highest mountain peak.

6. Connecting with Nature

There are countless scientific studies documenting the importance of connecting with nature for your physical, mental and emotional health. Most mountain climbs provide the perfect opportunity to do exactly that, all while providing you with clean, fresh air and beautiful scenery. 

A study by Robertson Cooper found that participants demonstrate a 15% increase in reported wellbeing when exposed to natural elements like greenery and sunlight, while a Stanford University paper found that walking in nature reduces the risk of depression and promotes better mental health.

Moreover, according to the National Park Service, spending just 20 minutes in nature can improve your concentration, and even reduces the need for ADHD medications in children. A 30-minute climb or walk in nature can boost your heart health and circulation, lower blood cholesterol and glucose levels, and reduce blood pressure and inflammation. It also boosts your immune system, helping you to stay healthier.

Observing and listening to birds and animals reduces stress, improves your mood and general wellbeing, and minimizes attention fatigue.

7. Social Benefits

Mountain climbing has plenty of social benefits too. 

Joining a climbing club or group can introduce you to new people and social circles with similar interests to your own. This helps you to form new friendships and get out and about more often. If you’re new to an area, this is a great way to meet like-minded people who share your passion for climbing. 

Climbing requires a high level of trust in other people. This can help to foster deep connections with other people that you genuinely trust to help you reach the summit safely. You will meet other people with positive mindsets and the ability to cheer you on and support you. Together, they’ll help you and every team member complete their climb successfully—and you’ll do the same for them. Climbing alone can be dangerous and it’s never advisable. But working as a team can help to keep you going when a climb gets difficult.

One of the best ways to reduce stress and anxiety in your life is to exercise with a friend or group. Knowing that someone is waiting for you to arrive at a park or mountain can be a strong incentive to exercise and socialize more. It’s an excellent idea to make plans with friends as often as possible to reach new levels of commitment to your mountain climbing goals.

8. Learning New Things

Every climb offers an opportunity for you to learn something new about the world around you and how to prepare for every eventuality. You will need to learn how to prepare for all types of weather, including rain and perhaps even snow. You’ll need to research the best and safest routes for your climbs, how to find the perfect gear to keep you warm and comfortable, and how to choose footwear that supports you during your activities. Plus, you’ll have to learn how to stay safe in nature, even when encountering potentially dangerous situations. 

Even making mistakes, like forgetting to pack water or a first aid kit into your backpack, can teach you more about how best to prepare for mountaineering and life in general. You may learn other interesting pieces of knowledge about edible and medicinal plants in the area, how the locals and indigenous communities live, and how the members of your climbing group have dealt with climbing-related challenges in the past.

9. Maintaining a Healthy Heart

Mountain climbing is one of the best activities you can do to improve your heart health. It’s challenging and even stressful at times, which can raise your heart rate, improve your muscle tone, and increase blood flow throughout your entire body. Getting your heart rate pumping can significantly lower your risk of developing heart disease. At the same time, it will improve your overall health and fitness.

A combination of aerobic exercise and strength training workouts is ideal for keeping your heart healthy, slowing your heart rate, and reducing blood pressure and lower stress hormones that can put a strain on your cardiovascular system. Mountain climbing combines both these forms of exercise to improve your heart health on every level.

Mountain climbing can help with weight control and obesity reduction, which can positively benefit your heart. Any exercise can help to maintain weight loss and prevent weight gain. But mountaineering combines aerobic and strength training which helps to build muscle and improve your resting metabolic rate. 

Trying to lose weight at the gym can feel repetitive and tedious at times. But when you join a mountain climbing group, you’ll be exercising in an engaging and social way that will empower you to reach any weight-related goals you’ve set for yourself, and keep your heart as healthy as possible.

10. Boosting Your Stamina

People who start mountain climbing for the first time may find that they need to turn back before they reach their goals at first. Mountaineering is a physically demanding activity that requires a high level of physical and mental stamina. Not everyone can summit a mountain on their first climbing trip.

This is completely normal. Even if you battle at first, persevering and climbing more often will improve your stamina and allow you to climb more easily, and for longer periods of time. Every time you climb, you will build stamina. In time, this will allow you to summit mountains and perform other demanding activities with relative ease.

Reaching New Heights In Your Life

Mountain climbing has a range of benefits. From improving your heart health and flexibility, reducing stress, and promoting better sleep to enhancing your stamina, problem-solving abilities, and social skills. Climbing as part of a group can expose you to positive, goal-oriented people, enable you to make interesting new friends, and enter into new social groups. And it will help you to foster a more positive mindset, especially when it comes to reaching your goals.

Climbing can also teach you a range of valuable skills that you can use in other areas of your daily life to make new friends, achieve new aims, and foster more confidence!

Words by Donna L. Jefferson. Copy cruncher, punctuation prodigy, and aspiring novelist.