Depression can be a severe mental illness, and it is finally starting to get the medical attention it deserves. As one of the most common mental disorders in.and more »
Depression can be a severe mental illness, and it is finally starting to get the medical attention it deserves. As one of the most common mental disorders in the world, odds are you know someone who has suffered from its debilitating symptoms at some point. But, for a lot of people, prescription medication just isn�t an enticing solution. That�s where physical activity comes in.
We have long known that exercise is powerful medicine for those suffering from anxiety and depression. It releases all those feel-good mood-boosting hormones, exerts a calming effect over the body, and boosts self-confidence. But there is one activity that is particularly�effective at thwarting depression: bouldering.
Bouldering is a form of rock climbing that is practiced without a rope or a harness. Climbers stay relatively low to the ground (no higher than 15-20 feet usually), which is lined with mats or soft padding for when you inevitably fall. That’s it. Then, you climb.
Bouldering is exercise, but it is also a jigsaw puzzle for your mind. In an indoor gym, you have specific holds you need to use, and you have to figure out how to best maneuver your limbs and core to top out. In an outdoor setting, you have the added challenge of figuring out where to hold on the rock and dealing with the variety of conditions nature provides. Bouldering, in a nutshell, combines physical exercise with focused, in-the-moment, mindful thought. You spend most of your session looking at the wall, imaging the route, and figuring out the best way to tackle it. Essentially, it is highly meditative exercise the builds both physical and mental fortitude.
I first heard about bouldering when a friend of mine was dealing with depression. After months of being disinterested in most things, the bouldering bug bit him hard. Over time, the more he bouldered, the better he was able to cope with and manage his depression symptoms. And recent research seems to agree.
A recent study released out of the University of Arizona�saw such strong results, they envision�bouldering as the next great treatment for depression. The researchers had depressed participants boulder for 3 hours a week over the course of 8 weeks. Some started right away; others waited to start the program for a few weeks. Those who started immediately had a significant drop in depression levels; often from �moderate� depression down to a more manageable �mild� depression. This means bouldering can be as effective as medication, or at the very least can be used as a powerful counterpart to medication.
I personally got into bouldering because I felt like I had�the upper body strength of a waterless�trout. I wanted to balance out my strength between my legs and upper body. I wanted to, at the very least, be capable of hauling my own body weight up and over an object�who knows when that zombie apocalypse is coming. I simply wanted to feel strong enough to manage my own body. But, when I got to the gym, I quickly realized that it isn�t about your upper body. It�s a whole body experience that cultivates a profound sense of mindfulness. You can do nothing else but exist in the moment. I think that is why yoga and climbing kind of go hand in hand.
If you have a rock gym near you, stop in and ask them about bouldering. Give it a try! It can be frustrating at first, especially if your forearms aren’t used to gripping for extended bouts of time. But, after a few sessions, you’ll begin to experience the fun fitness of bouldering. And if you battle with depression, there is no harm in trying. Worst case scenario, it’s just not your thing. Or, maybe you will develop a new hobby and meet some new people and kick depression’s butt!�Try something new and out of your comfort zone; give bouldering a try.
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