Heading out for a weekend climb or scaling the rock wall at the gym may be good therapy for treating depression, new research shows. A University of Arizona study found that a form of rock climbing eased depression symptoms in participants from moderate to mild levels after eight weeks, Inverse reports. The sport, also known as bouldering, which doesn't use ropes or harnesses, combines physicality and self-sufficiency, both of which have been shown to be beneficial in combatting depression, researchers say. "You have to be mindful and focused on the moment," lead author Eva-Maria Stelzer says. The sport "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."
Researchers divided more than 100 people in Germany diagnosed with depression, or who received low scores on a depression on a WHO depression scale, into two groups, the first of which immediately began climbing rocks or walls at a moderate height for three hours a week. Most were new to the sport. Over eight weeks, early participants showed a 6.27-point improvement in their score, while those in the second group who didn't climb saw a boost of just 1.4 points. When the sedentary group got the green light to climb in a second trial, their scores increased as well. Some German hospitals are using bouldering to treat depression, Inverse notes. Stelzer says bouldering could be a useful treatment in the US, where some 40 million American adults suffer from anxiety disorders. (An attention-boosting app may help with depression.)