Climbing has therapeutic benefits for children and adults with ADHD, says Chris Whitehead.
Exercise in itself can be quite repetitive for someone with an ADHD brain that constantly craves new and adventurous experiences. Climbing probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when looking for a new active lifestyle, but it’s ideal for adults and children with ADHD as it engages the senses and quietens the mind in a way that few other physical activities can do.
Indoor climbing routes tend to also be changed on a weekly basis so for an adventurous ADHDer this is ideal. Climbing can be done at the pace the person is most comfortable with. It calms the mind and encourages it to focus on being fully present in the activity instead of overthinking.
Creating greater accessibility through climbing activities is crucial, not only does it enhance neurodivergent adults and children’s concentration levels, executive functioning, and improve people’s mental health, but climbing activities also provide a sense of community and belonging, which prevents social exclusion.
Liaising with schools, businesses and, more importantly, people with lived experience of neurodivergence, we’re constantly reshaping our climbing space to create an environment which meets the needs of neurodivergent people and provides a sense of community to remove social exclusion.
Climbing is an adventure as well as a great brain trainer to improve attention, memory and processing skills which can enhance climbers’ productivity at school, in the workplace or at home.
At our neurodivergent-friendly climbing centres, quiet times have been introduced to especially support those with hypersensitivity to movement, music, chatter or close proximity to others. However we do not take our neurodivergent-friendly status for granted, as we are vastly aware that ADHD displays differently in everyone.
If you’re trying a new climbing route stand back and take a good look at your climbing route. This will enable you to work out a climbing path to the top of the wall before you embark upon it. Test your proposed climbing route—and be prepared to fail. Climbers often fail at their first attempt on a new climbing route, and that is completely fine. Trying out a new route with no expectation is a great way to work out what is and isn’t achievable.
It’s a great feeling accomplishing a climbing challenge from the bottom to the top of the wall. From then, you can either climb back down or, if you are feeling adventurous, free fall to the bottom. A routine can help ADHD children and adults to achieve their personal goals each session, which is a great dopamine high for an ADHDer seeking out feelings of accomplishments.
The most important therapeutic benefits of climbing for ADHD children and adults is the sense of belonging in a community which is widely known to be kind and accepting. Kindness is infectious and by ensuring that every employee and visitor feels a strong sense of belonging at Freeklime, this creates a meaningful connection where everyone can reach their potential through the art of climbing.
Chris Whitehead is the managing director of Freeklime, a dedicated climbing and bouldering centre in Yorkshire.