Bouldering, a form of rock climbing, does more than boost fitness. Learning how to rock climb can ease symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Learning how to rock climb may sound like an unlikely way to treat depression. But studies show bouldering, a form of rock climbing, can effectively relieve symptoms of depression while boosting endurance and building muscles, too.
Bouldering is defined as rock climbing without a rope or harness to moderate heights up to about13 feet (four meters), according to researcher Katharina Luttenberger, PhD, of the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg’s department of psychiatry. Luttenberger and colleagues in Europe pioneered bouldering as a treatment for depression, and several hospitals in Germany now use it as a therapy for depressed patients.
For a study headed by Luttenberger, published in BMC Psychiatry, 47 volunteers with various fitness levels who all suffered from depression were randomly selected to be in one of two groups. One group was placed on a wait list to learn how to rock climb, and the other group of research subjects participated in three hour-long bouldering sessions weekly for two months.
The bouldering research subjects learned how to rock climb in groups of about 12. They were taught by two mental health therapists trained in bouldering at the Austrian Institute for Therapeutic Rock Climbing, and at least one of the therapists teaching rock climbing to each group was a climbing instructor certified by the German Alpine Association.
By the end of the study, symptoms of depression had improved significantly in the participants who learned how to rock climb. However, there wasn’t an improvement in the other volunteers who sat out the training on a wait list.
The results aren’t totally surprising because exercise is known to be useful in treating depression. In fact, it’s one of the strategies recommended by the National Institute of Mental Health.
October 27, 2017
Janet O’Dell, RN