Bouldering seems to serve as a mood-booster for those experiencing depression.

By Ryan Halvorson

Photos by Jen Gold

Increased access to indoor climbing gyms has grown and so, too, has interest in the many benefits of participation in the sport. Recently, a team or researchers from the University of Arizona and the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg found that indoor climbing—bouldering, to be specific—can be helpful to individuals with depression.

The 24-week study involved 100 subjects who were assigned to a bouldering group and a waiting group. The bouldering group climbed for 3 hours per week for 8 weeks; the waiting group was told that they would get to climb at a later date. In addition to bouldering, the participants were given insight into how to develop positive social interactions, and meditation and mindfulness. Depression scores were determined based on Beck’s Depression Inventory and the Symptom Checklist Revised.

During the 8 weeks, the bouldering group’s scores improved by 6.27 points and the waiting group’s scores improved by 1.4 points.

Lead researcher Eva-Maria Stelzer believes that one of the reasons bouldering might benefit individuals with depression is that it requires significant attention, which limits a person’s ability to get stuck on things that bring them down.

“You have to be mindful and focused on the moment,” says Stelzer. “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.”

The researcher adds, “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. And there’s a social aspect along with the feeling of an immediate accomplishment when bouldering.”