Health & Fitness

Indoor ascent

Kids discover a world of walls at local rock climbing gym

McHenry County Magazine

S taying active early in life is crucial for maintaining a healthy lifestyle now and in the long run. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that children and adolescents get 60 minutes or more of physical exercise each day. But only one in three children are active each day, according to the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition.


Youth fitness programs are a great way for kids to start creating healthy habits, while getting one hour of exercise in a fun, social environment. The kids programs at North Wall Rock Climbing Gym in Crystal Lake are a unique way for children of all ages to get and stay fit.

“It’s very important for kids to become active when they’re young, because it’s an impressionable age,” says gym manager Steve Landon. “They’re developing skills and habits that are going to last a lifetime. If they’re not challenged when they’re young, and they try to start later, it can be a lot more difficult.”

The programs at North Wall are designed to teach kids proper climbing techniques. This can include learning how to boulder, belay, top rope, tie knots and play different climbing games. The program focuses on balance, motor skills, flexibility and core strength. 

And the sport offers more than just physical benefits. Kids also will flex their cognitive muscles with team building and problem solving activities. 

“I think climbing is good for kids because it definitely challenges them when it comes to problem solving,” says Landon. “It’s a physical activity as well as a mental one.”

It’s common for younger children, or those that have never climbed before, to be nervous about heights. But climbing can be a great way for kids to face their fears in a safe, positive environment. 

“When you’re attached to a rope, you can push past those boundaries and get more comfortable with facing fears and confronting challenges,” says Landon.

North Wall offers a summer program and an after-school program. These programs are open to all skill levels for kids age 6 to 13. The summer program runs from June to August. The season is split into one-week sessions, with classes from 9 a.m. to noon Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Kids can take part in one session or several. 

The after school program runs throughout the school year, from September to May. Each session is three weeks long and includes three consecutive Wednesdays of climbing lessons from 4 to 6 p.m. Equipment rentals are included in both programs. 

Kids that want to try their hand at climbing before signing up for a program can drop in during open gym hours. Day passes are $7 for children age 9 and younger, and $10 for those ages 10 to 17. Equipment is available for rent, including shoes, harnesses, belay devices and chalk bags.

North Wall Rock Climbing Gym
824 S. Main St., Suite 106
Crystal Lake

Other options for
kid-friendly fitness

Mar Ray Dance Studio
3923 West Main St. | McHenry

Kids can get fit and have fun at the same time at Mar Ray Dance Studio. The studio was the first in the state to offer Zumbatomic, a Zumba dance class designed specifically for kids. The program focuses on using kid-friendly songs and moves to teach basic choreography, confidence and teamwork. Two certified Zumbatomic instructors teach classes. No prior dance or fitness experience is necessary.

CrossFit Crystal Lake
110 W. Woodstock Ave. | Crystal Lake

Think kids can’t do CrossFit? Welcome to KidFit at CrossFit Crystal Lake. The program is an introduction to the world of CrossFit for young athletes. Kids will use their body weight to pull, push, jump, run and play their way to fitness using basic CrossFit methodology. For example, participants are introduced to Olympic Weightlifting by using light PVC pipes to learn correct form and develop the necessary skills to introduce weights as they get older. 

Centegra Health
Bridge Fitness Center
200 Congress Parkway | Crystal Lake
10450 Algonquin Road, Huntley

Centegra’s Kids in Motion is more than a fitness program. It incorporates various aspects of wellness to help kids and their families lead healthier, more active lifestyles. This fun, interactive program, built for kids ages 8 through 13 and their parents, emphasizes the importance of healthy eating and staying active. Both locations of Centegra Health Bridge offer a variety of other children’s programs, including kids Zumba, swim camps, yoga, tennis, volleyball and more.

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