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Adrenaline Ezine - Jan 2011

Climbing - King of Sports

For almost 100 years we humans have increased our lifespan a couple of years  for every generation -  in the mid-nineties we were living on average of 10 years longer than humans were living in the late 18th  century – but we were already becoming sicker than before and staying sick for a longer period of our lives.

The USA has now set a new record: the generations that are now in their twenties are expected to live shorter lives and become sick more and earlier then their parents. Why? And what has this got to do with climbing? The reason is that we are suffering from a lack of physical and mental challenges. More than 50% of illness and early death is directly connected to the lack of the physical and mental challenges than the struggle of human evolution has accustomised us to need. The physical challenges of early human life put high demands on our cardiovascuar, musclular and skeletal systems, as well as triggering endorfins, adrenaline and a host of hormones to keep our systems functional.

The absence of these physical and psychological demands is turning our bodies and minds weak. It does not help that people are eating a lot of junk food, but it is the absence of physical work that really turns us fat. It isn’t heavy work that leaves most elderly people weak and immobile with joint pain – it is the lack of physical strain. It is not only too much food and tobaco that provokes heart attacks, strokes, diabetes and worse,  it is – you guessed it – the lack of frequent bouts of physical challenging work.

Depression is killing more and more people, besides taking the joy and meaning out of their lives. The solution is simple - to put a smile on your dial, grab your rope and hit the crag.

The best preventive and curative medicine is physical activity. Many people are starting to realise this and a small number of them are even trying to do something about it. The problem is that many recreational sports and activities are either too monotonus, too injury-inducing or plainly put too little demands on the body for this activity to be helpful (think golf).

Imagine a sport that would force you to be active and to eat healthily, so as to be light enough to perform well. Imagine a sport that would put a moderatedly high and long demand on your cardiovascular and energy delivery systems. Imagine a sport that would need you to be proportionally strong and agile, with a full range of motion in all joints. Imagine a sport that appears to put you in life and death situations, thus triggering the release of beneficial antidepressant hormones, without really putting you in mortal danger.

Imagine a sport which you can continue to enjoy and benefit from into your fifties. Imagine rock climbing!

Sure there are risks with our sport, but not many. On average you have to climb 300,000 routes to kill yourself off, making it safer than scuba diving, and much safer than sitting around acumulating cholesterol in your veins. So the next time some wiseguy tries to get a crack at your ’risky’ pass-time, stick a copy of this article in their hands  and go on living like a king – carry on climbing !

Carpe diem – seize the day

Björn Alber
MD Sports Medicine

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