Health: Climbing the wall is a great way to keep fit

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Dangling by your fingertips 14 metres from the floor may seem an unlikely way to get fit. But a session at an indoor climbing wall will work muscles you never thought you had.

Leeds Climbing Wall has been teaching people to climb for around 20 years and it doesn’t matter whether you’re a complete novice or are in training for an expedition to the alps, the facilities are there for you to improve your technique and your overall fitness. Equipment is available to hire for those who don’t have their own kit.

The artificial walls at Leeds mimic the experience of climbing on outdoor rock but without the vagaries of the weather and other environmental variables.

Wall manager Steve Clapham says: “The Leeds Wall provides a wide range of climbing routes, from gentle slabs to impressively curved overhangs.

“We offer a heavily featured wall with pockets, tufas and flakes for a change of style. There is also an extensive bouldering area offering a huge selection of challenges.”

A full range of courses for beginners to experienced climbers are available throughout the year and the Lizards Club provides supervised sessions for under 18s.

Steve says: “We have people coming to the wall from very young children to those aged in their eighties.

“We recently had a woman in her seventies who had never climbed before, she just wanted to get fit and do something completely different from going to the gym; anyone over 80 is admitted free.

“You don’t have to be massively fit to start with but it’s really good exercise.

“It’s as much a mental game as it is a physical game and, depending on the type of climb, you work different muscles. “The slab which leans in more is more technical. It relies on balance, requires you to use your feet more and is easier on your arms; the vertical or overhanging wall requires you to use a lot of upper body strength.

“As far as a full body exercise goes, you can’t really beat it.”

The climbs are colour-coded and a chart on each wall details the severity of each one as well as who set it.

“If you can complete a particular climb without resting then you have obtained that grade and can move on to the next one, says Steve.”

Experienced climbers who can prove their competence can register as a member and use the wall unsupervised; to qualify as a member you must be able to confidently put on a harness, tie a figure of eight knot and belay.

“A lot of people are not experienced so they can book one of our qualified instructors and learn to climb on one of the less severe walls using a top rope,” says Steve.