Posted on Jun 28, 2024

Climbing: A revolutionary form of rehabilitation and well-being

Climbing is a sport made for everyone. As a dynamic full-body workout, that significantly enhances both physical and mental health. It strengthens the musculature of the entire body, improves flexibility, motor skills, agility, and balance. But beyond the physical benefits, climbing fosters a cooperative and inclusive community, providing a sense of joy, focus, challenge, and relaxation.

The Therapeutic Power of Climbing

Research by Freda Michelsen underscores the extraordinary benefits of regular climbing sessions. “Regular climbing sessions can provide individuals with an extraordinarily wide range of valuable opportunities for improving wellbeing and self-awareness, for example through the experience of a co-operative and inclusive community revolving around a shared sense of joy, focus, challenge, and relaxation,” Michelsen states.

From 2010 to 2022, sports coach and climbing instructor Stefan Jenuwein and his team conducted an extensive study in Herzogsägmühle, Germany. Analyzing data from 265 adults who undertook therapeutic climbing sessions as part of their medical rehabilitation, Freda Michelsen from the University of Kiel (2023) observed overwhelmingly positive trends. Participants rated the importance of therapeutic climbing in their rehabilitation process an average of 8.72 out of 10, with a standard deviation of 1.67 and 47.92% selecting the highest possible rating.

The qualitative analysis of participants’ feedback reveals profound psychological benefits. Michelsen (2023) identified five main categories of psychological experiences reported by the participants:

  • Success/Achievement and Positive Mood (28.8%): Many participants felt a sense of accomplishment and a boost in their mood after climbing.
  • Challenge and Coping Strategies (20.4%): Climbing presented challenges that helped individuals develop and refine coping strategies.
  • Self-Reflection and Self-Awareness (19.8%): The sport encouraged self-reflection and increased self-awareness.
  • Social Experiences (including experiences of belaying) (17.3%): Participants valued the social aspects and the sense of community.
  • Letting Go of Worries to Be Present “Here and Now” (10.3%): Climbing helped individuals focus on the present moment, reducing worries and anxiety.

Common subthemes included overcoming fears, motivation and perseverance, identifying hindering patterns of thoughts and behaviors, receiving interpersonal support, feeling a sense of community, and escaping specific illness-related symptoms through climbing.

Climbing empowers individuals to observe and examine their strengths and interests, nurturing these to acquire and hone various skills applicable beyond the climbing wall. It encourages the exchange of thoughts and knowledge, invites the pursuit of solutions and experimentation with new ideas, and provides a space to figure out new ways of doing things.


And for those with different abilities, climbing is a suitable discipline for rehabilitating physical motor skills. With its ability to develop numerous motor, psychomotor and physical functions, climbing makes it easier to re-appropriate the body and sensory perceptions for people suffering from transient or permanent neuromotor disorders.


NHC William Lennox // Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium

The William Lennox Neurological Hospital has made climbing an integral part of its patients' rehabilitation program. The 6-metre-high climbing wall has been specially designed and equipped to ensure the rehabilitation of patients. The structure has a positive and a negative wall with different levels of difficulty in the routes.

Find out more about the project

The positive impact of climbing on physical and mental health is undeniable. As a holistic approach to rehabilitation, climbing offers a unique blend of physical challenge and psychological growth. Whether you're a healthcare professional looking for innovative rehabilitation methods or an individual seeking a comprehensive workout that also boosts mental well-being, climbing could be the perfect solution.

So, take the plunge and explore the world of climbing. Experience the joy, focus, challenge, and relaxation that comes with reaching new heights. Embrace climbing not just as a sport, but as a transformative tool for improving overall health and wellbeing.


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