Climbing V Running: Which Is Better?

Are you an outdoor enthusiast stuck in a dilemma between running or climbing? If so, then you’re not alone. It can take time to decide which activity suits you, depending on what kind of physical activities you enjoy the most. Both climbers and runners have very different perspectives on how each contributes to your overall fitness and well-being, but they offer unique benefits that should be noticed.

In this article, we will compare and contrast these two disciplines to provide a clear understanding of the significant differences between them – from the level of difficulty involved to the types of gear needed – so that you can make an educated decision as to which might be better for achieving your goals. Read on for everything you need to know about climbing v running!

Overview of Climbing and Running – Benefits, Risks, Varieties 

Climbing and running are two popular forms of physical exercise with unique benefits and risks.


Climbing involves working various muscle groups, thus improving strength, endurance, and flexibility. It also promotes balance, hand-eye coordination and is a great stress reliever. On the other hand, running is an excellent cardiovascular exercise that boosts metabolism, enhances lung capacity, and reduces the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and obesity.


Despite the benefits, both activities carry a certain degree of risk. Climbing can lead to strains, sprains, fractures, or other injuries if precautions are not taken. Similarly, running can lead to injuries such as shin splints, stress fractures, and muscle strains. Overuse injuries can also occur if one gradually builds up their fitness level over time.


There are several types of climbing, including rock climbing, bouldering, and indoor climbing. Rock climbing involves scaling natural rock formations using specialized equipment. At the same time, bouldering is a form of climbing on smaller rocks or boulders without using ropes or harnesses. Indoor climbing is done on artificial walls with holds and routes of varying difficulty.

Running has several varieties: trail running, track running, sprinting, and long-distance running. Trail running involves running on natural trails or paths, while track running is on an oval track. Sprinting is a high-intensity form of running involving maximum effort over a short distance, while long-distance running consists in running at a slower pace over longer distances.

Regardless of the specific type of climbing or running, both offer immense health benefits that can enhance overall well-being when done safely and responsibly.

Comparing the Physiological Differences Between Climbing and Running 

Although climbing and running are excellent forms of physical exercise, they have different physiological impacts on the body.

Muscle Groups

Climbing primarily works the upper body, requiring significant use of the shoulders, arms, and core muscles. On the other hand, running targets the lower body, with the main forces being the quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, and glutes.

Cardiovascular System

Running is known for its excellent cardiovascular benefits, improving lung capacity and heart health. Climbing can also provide cardiovascular benefits but to a lesser extent than running.


Running is a high-impact exercise which puts a lot of strain on the joints, especially the knees. In comparison, climbing is a low-impact exercise that puts less joint stress. However, climbing can cause significant pressure on the fingers, forearms, and shoulders.


Both climbing and running require endurance but in different ways. Running is classified as an endurance exercise involving sustaining aerobic activity over an extended period. Climbing requires bursts of anaerobic training to move through difficult sections.

Calories Burned

Running burns more calories than climbing due to the higher intensity and duration of the activity. Climbing, however, can provide an effective full-body workout in less time.

Health Implications of Choosing One Sport Over the Other 


Running is an excellent form of cardiovascular exercise that improves heart health, burns calories and reduces the risk of chronic diseases. In comparison, climbing is a full-body workout that builds upper-body strength and promotes flexibility. One form of exercise may be more beneficial depending on individual fitness goals.


Both activities carry certain risks. Running is a high-impact exercise that can stress the knees and lower body and cause overuse injuries. Climbing strains the upper body, leading to finger, forearm, and shoulder injuries. Choosing one form of exercise over the other may increase the potential for certain injuries.

Fitness Level

It’s essential to consider individual fitness levels when choosing a primary form of exercise. Running may be more difficult for those with joint issues or low endurance levels, while climbing may be too challenging for beginners who lack upper body strength and grip power.

Time and Access

Access to facilities and time constraints may also impact the choice between running and climbing. Running can be done almost anywhere with just a good pair of sneakers, while climbing requires access to a rock gym or natural climbing area, which may be more challenging to find and access.

Overall Health and Wellness

Ultimately, overall health and wellness are crucial in choosing between running and climbing. Incorporating both forms of exercise can provide a well-rounded workout that targets various muscle groups and offers unique benefits. However, choosing one sport over the other may only sometimes lead to adverse health implications if you engage in a well-rounded fitness routine encompassing strength and conditioning exercises, flexibility training, and rest and recovery.

The Equipment Required for Each Sport 


  • Running shoes: Proper running shoes provide support and cushioning to the feet and help prevent injuries.
  • Appropriate clothing: Clothing that is comfortable and allows for free movement helps prevent chafing and other discomforts.
  • Accessories: Accessories, such as a GPS watch, headphones, and hydration belt, can help improve performance and safety during running.


  • Climbing shoes: Specialized climbing shoes provide better grip and support while climbing on rocks or in an indoor gym.
  • Harness: A harness is worn around the waist and legs to attach oneself to a rope for safety while climbing.
  • Chalk bag: A chalk bag helps climbers keep their hands dry by storing chalk, which provides a better grip.
  • Carabiners: Carabiners attach the rope to the harness and secure the climber while climbing.

In addition to the above equipment, climbers require specialized gear such as ropes, quickdraws, and helmets, depending on their climbing. On the other hand, running requires relatively minimal specialized equipment, making it more accessible to beginners.

Finding the Right Environment to Pursue Your Preferred Activity 


  • Terrain: Depending on your fitness level and preferences, consider whether you prefer running on pavement, trails, or a mix of both. Look for areas that provide the terrain you enjoy, and ensure that it is safe and suitable for running.
  • Climate: Some runners prefer cooler temperatures, while others thrive in warmer weather. Consider your climate preferences when searching for a running environment, and dress appropriately for the conditions.
  • Convenience: Ensure that the location is accessible and convenient. Look for running paths near your home or office, and try to find a safe and well-lit route.


  • Difficulty: Consider your skill level and experience when choosing a climbing environment. Beginners should start with easier routes or indoor climbing gyms with trained instructors to guide them.
  • Natural vs indoor climbing: Decide whether you prefer climbing in natural environments or indoor gyms. Natural environments provide breathtaking views, but indoor gyms offer a controlled, more comfortable environment with diverse climbing routes.
  • Safety: Safety should be a top priority when finding a climbing environment. Look for established routes with well-maintained anchors, or find an indoor gym with ropes and trained instructors.

Connecting with Others

No matter the activity, connecting with others in your community can be an excellent way to find the perfect environment. Join a local running or climbing club, or look for online communities where you can meet like-minded individuals who share your passion.

Guidance on How to Get Started with Either or Both Activities


  1. Set Goals: Determine your fitness goals and set attainable targets for yourself. It could be running for a certain distance or time or training for a particular race.
  2. Gear Up: Invest in appropriate running shoes and comfortable clothing that will help prevent injuries while allowing you to move freely. Accessories such as headphones, GPS watches, and hydration belts can also help improve your running experience.
  3. Start Slow: Begin with a slow and gradual workout routine and increase the duration or intensity of your workouts over time. This allows your body to adapt gradually and minimize the risk of injury.
  4. Mix It Up: Incorporate different workouts, such as interval training, hill running, or strength training, to prevent boredom and challenge your body in new ways.


  1. Start Indoors: Consider starting with indoor climbing, which provides a more controlled environment, trained instructors, and a wide range of climbing routes.
  2. Invest in Gear: Before heading outdoors, invest in essential gear such as climbing shoes, a harness, carabiners, and a chalk bag. Make sure to get quality gear that is safe and appropriate for your skill level.
  3. Take a Course: Consider taking a course or partnering with experienced climbers to learn proper techniques and safety procedures. Climbing safely requires knowledge and understanding of appropriate methods and gear.
  4. Practice Regularly: As with any sport, the more you practice, the better you’ll become. Climbing regularly enhances your skills, endurance, and strength.

Tips for Starting Both Activities

  1. Listen to Your Body: Pay attention to your body and rest or modify workouts when needed. Overexertion and injuries can be avoided by knowing when to slow down and take a break.
  2. Connect with a Community: Build relationships with fellow runners or climbers who can provide motivation and encouragement, share tips and insights, and offer support through the journey.
  3. Have Fun: Ultimately, enjoying yourself is the key to success in any sport. Find ways to make the activity fun, enjoyable, and challenging. Celebrate your milestones and progress, and remain optimistic about the results.


Q: Is climbing or running suitable for beginners?

A: Both activities can be enjoyed by beginners. However, climbing requires more specialized gear and technique, and developing the necessary strength and skills may take time. Running can be started with relatively minimal equipment and can be adapted to one’s fitness level.

Q: Which activity burns more calories – climbing or running?

A: Running burns more calories due to its higher intensity and duration. However, climbing can provide an effective full-body workout in less time.

Q: Can climbing provide cardiovascular benefits like running?

A: Climbing can provide some cardiovascular benefits, but to a lesser extent than running.

Q: Does running or climbing have a higher risk of injury?

A: Both activities carry a risk of injury if proper precautions are not taken. Running can cause overuse injuries, especially in the knees and lower body. Climbing can cause finger, forearm, and shoulder injuries. Beginners should start with more accessible routes or workouts, ensure they have the proper gear, and learn the appropriate technique.

Q: Can running and climbing be done on the same day?

A: Running and climbing can be done on the same day, provided the body has adequate time to rest and recover. Incorporating both forms of exercise into a fitness routine can provide a well-rounded workout that targets various muscle groups and offers unique benefits.

Q: Which one provides a better upper body workout, climbing or running?

A: The primary target muscles of running are the lower body muscles. Conversely, climbing primarily works the upper body and requires significant use of the shoulders, arms, and core muscles.

Q: Are there any health implications of choosing one activity over the other?

A: The health implications of choosing one activity over the other depend on individual fitness levels, access, and overall health and wellness goals. Both running and climbing provide immense health benefits, so choosing one over the other should be based on individual preference and fitness goals.

Q: Can I connect with others while pursuing either or both activities?

A: Yes, joining a local running or climbing club or finding online communities can be an excellent way to connect with others and share tips and support.

Q: Is it possible to pursue climbing and running simultaneously?

A: Yes, it’s possible to pursue climbing and running simultaneously. Incorporating both forms of exercise into a fitness routine can provide a well-rounded workout that targets various muscle groups and offers unique benefits.