Forget about drugs, yoga, meditation–the latest recommended therapy for depression involves climbing large rocks, yes, without ropes. Bouldering, it turns out, is used in many hospitals, OK, German hospitals, to treat the symptoms of depression. Now two German researchers, Eva-Maria Stelzer, a PhD candidate at the University of Arizona, and Katharina Luttenberger of the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, have some scientific evidence that it actually works. A University of Arizona news release reports that the researchers divided 100 people who were being treated for depression into two groups, one of which immediately started bouldering (three hours a week for eight weeks), and the other of which waited to get started. When the researchers measured the depression of group members at different points in the study (using the Beck’s Depression Inventory and the depression subscale of the Symptom Check List Revised, known as SCL-90-R) they found that the immediate intervention group’s Beck’s Depression scores improved by 6.27 points, but for the same time period the group that was initially wait-listed improved by only 1.4 points. The drop in score reflects an improvement of one severity grade from moderate to mild depression levels.
Stelzer says bouldering has several important characteristics that make it especially beneficial for the treatment of depression, namely that it helps boost self-efficacy and social interactions — both of which hold innate benefits for dealing with depression. “You have to be mindful and focused on the moment,” she says. “It does not leave much room to let your mind wonder on things that may be going on in your life — you have to focus on not falling.”