The exercise pressor response to indoor rock climbing

J Appl Physiol (1985). 2020 Aug 1;129(2):404-409. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00357.2020. Epub 2020 Jul 9.


This paper assessed the blood pressure, heart rate, and mouth-pressure responses to indoor rock climbing (bouldering) and associated training exercises. Six well-trained male rock climbers (mean ± SD age, 27.7 ± 4.7 yr; stature, 177.7 ± 7.3 cm; mass, 69.8 ± 12.1 kg) completed two boulder problems (6b and 7a+ on the Fontainebleau Scale) and three typical training exercises [maximum voluntary contraction (MVC) isometric pull-up, 80% MVC pull-ups to fatigue, and campus board to fatigue]. Blood pressure and heart rate were measured via an indwelling femoral arterial catheter, and mouth pressure via a mouthpiece manometer. Bouldering evoked a peak systolic pressure of 200 ± 17 mmHg (44 ± 21% increase from baseline), diastolic pressure of 142 ± 26 mmHg (70 ± 32% increase), mean arterial pressure of 163 ± 18 mmHg (56 ± 25% increase), and heart rate of 176 ± 22 beats/min (76 ± 35% increase). The highest systolic pressure was observed during the campus board exercise (218 ± 33 mmHg), although individual values as high as 273/189 mmHg were recorded. Peak mouth pressure during climbing was 31 ± 46 mmHg, and this increased independently of climb difficulty. We concluded that indoor rock climbing and associated exercises evoke a substantial pressor response resulting in high blood pressures that may exceed those observed during other upper-limb resistance exercises. These findings may inform risk stratification for climbers.NEW & NOTEWORTHY This case study provides original data on the exercise pressor response to indoor rock climbing and associated training exercises through the use of an indwelling femoral arterial catheter. Our subjects exhibited systolic/diastolic blood pressures that exceeded values often reported during upper-limb resistance exercise. Our data extend the understanding of the cardiovascular stress associated with indoor rock climbing.

Keywords: blood pressure; cardiovascular disease; heart rate; pressor response; rock climbing.