Study Shows That “Bouldering” Might Help In Curing Depression

Boulding is an activity similar to rock climbing, which is performed on relatively smaller rocks, typically less than 6 meters in height, or even artificial rocks without any ropes or harnesses. There are safety mats spread over the floor to prevent falling injuries, and it can be performed as an indoor activity on artificial climbing walls. Bouldering involves climbing problems where the climber has to traverse upwards, grabbing randomly protruding stones or cracks and holes over the boulder.

Even though it primarily is a fun weekend activity for kids and adults, a new report published in BMC Psychiatry caught more eyes in the psychotherapy world as its study showed positive results of bouldering psychotherapy for reducing depression symptoms.

Analysis of the Published Report:

In this study, researchers assigned manualized bouldering psychotherapy as an intervention for treating depression compared to performing physical exercise.  

The study was performed on 133 outpatients with depression falling in the age group between 30 to 55 years in a randomized and multicentred manner. Around 62% of these subjects were females, and all of them were randomly assigned to one of the two intervention groups – bouldering psychotherapy or a home-based exercise program. The primary factor monitor in this study was the severity of depression, which was evaluated with the Montgomery–Åsberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS). Secondary factors that affect mental health, such as self-esteem, coping skills, body image, interpersonal sensitivity, and anxiety, were also evaluated in individual subjects.

Subjects who were assigned to bouldering psychotherapy intervention performed 2-hour sessions every week for 10 weeks. Each session followed a systematic program with opening remarks, an action phase, and a closing discussion. The action phase comprised of a combination of activities such as mindfulness, bouldering exercises under therapeutic supervision, psychoeducational approaches, exchange of experiences between participants, body-related relaxation exercises, and free bouldering. 

Subjects who were assigned to a home-based exercise program underwent 1-hour sessions every week for 10 weeks. Every session involved psychoeducational training materials and exercises.

Conclusions From the Study:

Altogether, subjects from both groups showed reduced symptoms of depression. However, this reduction in the bouldering psychotherapy group was significantly higher than the home-based program group. The MADRS score decreased by 8.4 points in the bouldering group versus the 3.0 point drop in the home-based program group. Also, the subjects in the bouldering group improved by 1 severity-group-grade while the home-based group subjects remained in the same severity group. The same pattern of results was reflected in both groups regarding the severity of anxiety, self-esteem, and body image.

However, subjects in the home-based exercise group received less time of psychotherapy than the bouldering group, which can be considered a limitation of this study. Further research could be carried out to verify its effectiveness in relevant subgroups of mental disorders to help develop individualized treatment strategies for clinical practices.

Even though bouldering might prove to be a more effective alternative to exercise programs for treating depression, every depression case is unique to itself, and only a professional psychologist can assign specific treatments for each condition. Hence, if you ever feel the need to visit a psychologist in Pune, visit Dr. Manish Bajpayee and discuss all your issues with him. You can also visit Dr. Bajpayee’s website to book your online consultation with the best psychiatrist in Pune.

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