Bouldering may help treat depression, shows study

No one’s life is perfect. Everyone has their share of stresses, worries and tensions. At times, one is able to handle the situation easily, however, there are times when everything becomes overwhelming or the difficult times seem to go on forever. In such a case, the constant stress of dealing with a tough situation can harm a person’s mental health leading to the development of mental disorders like depression or post-traumatic stress disorder.

Depression is one of the most commonly diagnosed mental illnesses in the U.S. affecting almost 15.7 million adults in the country. A number of treatment options are available to treat depression which includes medication, therapies or a combination of the two.

Recently, two researchers from the University of Arizona (UA), discovered a new and alternative way to treat depression. According to the researchers, bouldering, which is a form of rock climbing, though effective for building muscles and endurance and reducing stress, can now also be used to successfully treat depression. The study was conducted by Eva-Maria Stelzer of the University of Arizona and Katharina Luttenberger of the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg.

Researchers conducted study on 100 individuals

The study enrolled more than 100 individuals in a bouldering intervention in Germany. Divided randomly into two groups, the first group immediately began the intervention whereas the other was made to wait. Each participant practiced bouldering for around three hours per week for eight weeks.

The level of depression of the group members was measured at different junctures during the study using the Beck’s Depression Inventory and the depression subscale of the Symptom Check List Revised, also called SCL-90-R.

Depression scores improve from moderate to mild

The researchers observed that the Beck’s Depression scores for the immediate intervention group improved by 6.27 points. Whereas, the wait-listed group’s score improved by only 1.4 points. This noticeable difference in the points reflected an improvement in the participants’ depression levels, from moderate to mild.

The participants from both the groups were also educated about ways to promote positive social interactions, meditation and mindfulness. This intervention and follow-up lasted 24 weeks.

Scope and benefits

The researchers have now expanded the scope of their research and are planning to compare the effects of bouldering intervention to that of cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) on individuals in Erlangen, Munich and Berlin.

Apart from treating depression, bouldering also benefits people dealing with anxiety, social isolation and self-esteem issues. A majority of the people with depression deal with isolation. Stelzer, while emphasizing on using bouldering as an effective treatment for depression, said that it can also be used to boost one’s physical activity as well as reduce social isolation by allowing people to exchange thoughts with each other. Both these are essential tools to treat depression.

Recovery road map

Treating depression is possible using medications, psychotherapies or both. On the basis of the positive results attained, the researchers now believe that bouldering can be used along with the traditional methods to treat depression and are, thus, working towards developing a manual on bouldering and psychotherapies for an eight-week depression treatment program.

If you or someone you know is dealing with depression or any other mental health issue, 24/7 Mental Health Helpline can help you connect with some of the best mental health rehabilitation centers in your vicinity. Call our 24/7 helpline number 855-653-8178 or chat online to get details about the best, state-of-the-art mental health residential facilities in the U.S.