As a physical therapist, we're always looking for new ways to mix things up. We want physical therapy to be exciting and fun, while providing optimal exercise for targeting the entire body.
Today, I’d like to talk you thorough some of the therapeutic benefits of rock climbing and explain why it is a ROCKIN’ exercise for your child.
Many times, I have introduced the rock wall to a child and received a fearful response in return. The rock wall can be a challenging, intimidating activity for children and for this reason, I enjoy using in it my treatment sessions. Don’t get me wrong, it is not my intention to intimidate or place fear into a child’s heart; however, I strongly believe that taking small steps to eventually complete an activity that was once difficult or provoked fear is such confidence booster like no other. Performing an activity that once seemed impossible, feeling strong and prideful as you stand at the top of that rock wall mountain… now that’s good stuff.
Motor Planning and Depth Perception
When climbing a wall, children must process HOW they are going to make it to the top! Are they going to step on the blue rock, green, red? Is the step close enough or is it too far away? Too high or not high enough? All of these questions are processing through your little ones brain as they make their way up the wall. Children must use their right and left sides in a coordinated pattern to make a path for movement. Your child’s therapist may request that they “put their foot on red”, in a some-what twister fashion, your child must process the request and determine exactly HOW they will be able to transfer their weight over to place their foot on that red rock.
Have you ever had to help a friend move a big couch? Carry a heavy duffle bag around the airport from terminal A to F? You were primarily using your arms, right? Well, I’d be willing to bet that you could feel that moving or carrying in more areas of your body than just your arms later on. This is because when were moving around, we are using FAR more muscles than we think we are! When climbing, children are able to work on developing what we call “global strength”, meaning over all areas of the body. Children work on gripping holds (rocks), strengthening their hands and forearms; Pulling up to the next level of holds, strengthening their upper arms and legs to help push them higher, and even their core as they work on clinging tight to the wall, strengthening their stomach and back musculature to climb all the way to that top rock! Things are not always as they seem!
As your child gets stronger with this activity, they will be able to sustain holding onto the wall longer and climbing higher each time. He or she will be able to make new paths up the wall, for example, using only the green rocks to make it from point A to B, which is more challenging and typically takes longer to accomplish. They will be able to hold on longer without feeling as tired after, because they are improving their endurance for this activity. With increased endurance, we will begin see our children be able to play longer and become more focused during activities!
If your child requires adaptation for climbing due to lack of arm or leg control, look into organizations and Summer Camps providing special adaptations available around you!