Never too old to rock: How the new Olympic sport of rock climbing can be beneficial for over 60s

Never too old to rock

How the new Olympic sport of rock climbing can be beneficial for over 60s


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A new sport is hitting the summer Olympics this year – Sport Climbing.

Sport climbing is a form of rock climbing and indeed is likely what most of us think of when we think of indoor rock climbing: colourful man-made holds on a vertical (or overhanging) surface.

A quick guide to Sport Climbing 

Sport climbing at the Olympics will involve three disciplines: Speed, Lead and Boulder. For the Tokyo debut, these disciplines will be combined into a single medal event, although will be separated at future Olympic Games.

Speed is exactly as it sounds – you want to be the quickest person to make it up the 15m wall (the current world record for this feat is 5.2 seconds).

Lead requires the climber to wear a harness and a rope and to clip themselves into various quickdraw carabiners as they progress up the route, failing the run when they fall or the time limit elapses.

Boulder doesn’t involve any ropes as the wall is just 4m high. In Boulder the climber aims to reach the top of the route in as few tries as possible within a specified time limit.

Rock climbing

Head for heights

Now perhaps you won’t be competing at the Olympics any time soon – but did you know rock climbing is a form of exercise that is gaining in popularity with the over 60s?

It is a relatively low impact sport, little cardio is involved and it is easy on bones and joints. Also the level of difficulty is completely variable so each climber can very easily find walls and routes that suit their abilities.

Two-steps ahead

What’s more, rock climbing is incredibly beneficial for your mental acuity. It is essentially vertical problem solving – the routes are a puzzle that need to be worked out and for this reason you often need to be looking and thinking two steps ahead while climbing, great for keeping your wits about you.

Climbing also requires full concentration so it can be a tremendous form of escapism and stress relief. You can’t be distracted by life’s problems when you are 12 feet up a vertical wall!

Another reason why rock climbing makes a great pastime is that it is inherently social. Whether you have another person belaying you, or you climb with a group, climbers enjoy nothing more than chatting with each other, swapping tips and working out how to collectively solve route problems.

Also, and most importantly rock climbing is fun!

Take it from Greta.

After her 70 year old daughter told Greta she had taken up rock climbing with her son, Greta was interested and asked if she could come along and watch them.

While watching, 99 year old Greta thought it looked like a lot of fun and decided she’d like to have a go.

I’ve been given a body and I like using it

So impressed was he with Greta’s achievements, Paul Twomey Director of The Climbing Academy, a chain of indoor climbing centres in the UK, decided to offer free entry at his venues to any climbers over 70. Paul wants to encourage more people to take up the hobby of rock climbing.

‘We are all well aware that climbing is an activity that can be pursued well into later life and creating that opportunity to help older climbers stay motivated seemed like the right thing to do,”’ he told UK Climbing.

So what do you think?

Are you a rock climber? Or are you inspired now to give it a try?

Maybe you partake in a different activity to keep you fit?

We’d love to hear about it.