Can Rock Climbing Help With Depression?

A recent study from the University of Arizona says the sport takes sufferers' symptoms from moderate to mild

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Far from weekend Instagram fodder (is it just us, or is everyone swapping hell-ish hangovers for heights at the mo?), rock climbing - or rather, bouldering, a specific kind of rock climbing - could potentially have great health benefits.

Obviously, the fact that you're out of bed and not watching Netflix with a takeaway, is in itself a benefit. But it's more than simply the physicality of the sport.

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A recent study from the University of Arizona, in conjunction with the University of Erlangen-Nurmeburg, found bouldering could be an effective way to treat depression.

Researches anayalsed more than 100 adults from Germany who were randomly selected and then allocated to one of two groups.

One group started bouldering - rock climbing without ropes or harnesses - immediately, while the other group's start was delayed. But both groups took part in the sport for three hours a week, eight weeks in total.

Most of the participants were new to the sport and, throughout the treatment, depression symptoms were investigated using standard assessments.

The results revealed that those who started bouldering immediately experienced more than a six point improvement in their depression score, which took their symptoms from moderate to mild. Those waiting to start the sport, however, experienced an average improvement of 1.4 points.

So what's behind the improvement? Researchers believe that different 'routes for your physical activity level' (you can stick to the easiest, or move up to something harder)is a big factor, combined with the fact that you're with your mates but, while you're up there, you also need to concentrate. There's nothing like knowing you could fall and seriously injure yourself to keep the mind focused.

Study author Eva-Maria Stelzer, from the University of Arizona, said: 'You have to be mindful and focused on the moment.

'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.'

Stelzer believes the effects can be far reaching. 'I hope this study and future studies are able to impact a life. Depression is a severe illness …Even though a variety of treatment options exist, less than one-third of people receive treatment for their symptoms,' she said.

This study isn't saying bouldering is a cure for depression, naturally, and simply doing exercise - no matter what form it takes - will often help in some small way. But it does seem like there could be real benefits for the mental health disorder.

Race you to the, er, top?

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