Rock Climbing and Acute Emotion Regulation in Patients with Major Depressive Disorder in the Context of a Psychological Inpatient Treatment: A Controlled Pilot Trial

Maria Kleinstäuber, Philipps University
Merle Reuter, Eberhard Karls University
Norbert Doll, Eberhard Karls University
Andreas J. Fallgatter, Eberhard Karls University


Background: Major depressive disorder is characterized by deficits in emotion regulation. This study examined associations between rock climbing and acute emotion regulating effects in patients with major depression. Patients and methods: In a nonrandomized, controlled study, 40 major depressive disorder inpatients were assigned to either a climbing session (n=20) or a relaxation session (n=20). Positive and negative affect, depressiveness, and coping emotions were assessed immediately before and after the session. Results: Mixed analyses of variance and covariance revealed significant time × group interaction effects for all assessed outcomes (p≤0.012): positive affect and coping emotions significantly increased and negative affect and depressiveness significantly decreased after the climbing session (1.04≤ Cohen’s d ≤1.30), in contrast to a relaxation session (0.16≤ Cohen’s d ≤0.36). Conclusion: The results show that rock climbing is associated with acute emotion regulatory effects. These findings have to be replicated with a randomized design, and future research should pay attention to possible mechanisms of rock climbing in regard to emotion regulation.