Recent research suggests that bouldering, a form of rock climbing, may complement traditional care for clinical depression.

University of Arizona (UA) researcher Eva-Maria Stelzer and Katharina Luttenberger of the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg led a team that involved more than 100 individuals in a bouldering intervention in Germany, where some hospitals have begun to use climbing as a therapeutic treatment.

Other research from the Department of Psychiatry and the Department of Medicine at Cedars-Sinai found that 33 percent of hospitalized patients had symptoms of depression, such as feeling down or hopeless, having little interest or pleasure in doing things, and experiencing significant sleep and appetite changes. Waguih William IsHak, MD, lead author of that study, said that patients who have symptoms of depression are less likely to take their medications and keep up with their outpatient appointments. These behaviors could lead to delayed recoveries, longer hospital stays, and a greater chance of hospital readmissions.

Participants in the bouldering study were taught how to cultivate positive social interactions and about meditation and mindfulness.

“[When bouldering,] you have to be mindful and focused on the moment. It does not leave much room to let your mind wander on things that may be going on in your life—you have to focus on not falling,” Stelzer said.

“Since rumination is one of the biggest problems for depressed individuals, we had the idea that bouldering could be a good intervention for that,” Luttenberger said.

Stelzer also explained that bouldering has other characteristics that make it especially beneficial for the treatment of depression, namely that it helps boost self-efficacy and social interactions.

“Bouldering not only has strong mental components, but it is accessible at different levels so that people of all levels of physical health are able to participate,” she said.

For more information and to watch an amputee bouldering, visit

This article is based on information provided by UA and Cedars-Sinai. Image by Grundy.

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