2YH: Indoor climbing isn't just for those with experience

ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - Start low and go slow.

75-year old, indoor climber Julian Mason scaling the wall at the Alaska Rock Gym.

"Whoa," said experienced indoor climber Pete Panarese. As he scaled up the wall at the Alaska Rock Gym with a GoPro attached to his chest, he makes his way to the top, calling out "you're clear" before rappelling down.

Panarese started experimenting with climbing when he was in college.

"Now that I'm a bit older this is easy and safe. It's good for your body, muscle structure and bones -- plus I have a lot of friends who I like to climb with," he said.

Friends like 75-year old Julian Mason who noticed a change to his upper body strength.

"I'm willing to lift weights and do that stuff, but I don't really like it and you get a terrific upper body work out in the gym, but you don't really think about what you're doing until you collapse, then you got it," added Mason.

Indoor climbing is a team sport. You need two people. One to climb and the other to hold the safety rope.

"I think people need to be aware of that, it's not something you can't pay attention to because you can get hurt if you don't," said Mason.

Anyone young or old can get on the walls, but as with anything new, it takes time.

"It's not an activity that you should just charge right into," said Panarese, "It takes a little training and appreciation as to what the problems might be with the terrain and with yourself," said Panarese.

"Every time I come here there's some people learning and as soon as they understand that they're safe, then they get comfortable with the climb," added Mason.

Dr. Tanya Leinecke said climbing burns a lot of calories.

"One study shows that you can burn 6 to 10 per minute climbing so it's actually aerobic activity. Most people don't realize that" she said.

But, it's not just the physical transformation, there's a mental component too. Dr. Leinecke said overcoming fear is really good for our brains.

"Step by step it leads to confidence and the ability to improve your balance and strength," said Panarese.

In the end, indoor climbing, good for the body, good for the mind. It can be a great way to get the right kind of exhausted if you're looking for an alternative to clanging weights in the gym.

There's also an option that doesn't require a second person to hold the rope. That's called auto belay. For those that are nervous about climbing and the risks involved, Dr. Leinecke said sitting on your couch doing nothing has proven to be far worse for your life expectancy than hanging from a rope at the gym.

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