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The Therapeutic Effects of Climbing: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

PM R. 2022 Aug 28. doi: 10.1002/pmrj.12891. Online ahead of print.


OBJECTIVE: Several recent studies show growing popularity of therapeutic climbing (TC) for patients with various conditions. This could be an attempt to fill the gap left by traditional exercises that do not always address physical, mental and social well-being. The review provides an overview of physical, mental and social effects and safety aspects of climbing for different indications.

LITERATURE SURVEY: A literature search was conducted on July 8th 2020 (update search August 26th 2021). We searched MEDLINE via Ovid, Embase, and PubMed, bibliographies of included studies and conducted a manual search.

METHODOLOGY: Two independent reviewers evaluated the studies’ quality using appropriate Risk of Bias (RoB) tools, and domains’ level of evidence was graded. Study characteristics and TC’s effectiveness data were extracted and synthesised. Meta-analyses were conducted for the three dimensions (physical/mental/social health), using a random-effects model.

SYNTHESIS: 112 publications were reviewed, and 22 full-text articles were assessed regarding the eligibility criteria, of which 18 trials involving 568 patients were included. TC is safe and positively affects physical (e.g., fitness, motor control, movement velocity, dexterity, strength), mental (e.g., depressiveness, somatisation, psychoticism, emotion regulation, body perception, self-esteem, fatigue), and social health (e.g., social functioning, trust, communication, sense of responsibility) for those with neurological, orthopaedic, psychiatric and paediatric ailments. The meta-analysis showed a statistically significant improvement in the physical dimension favouring the climbing group Improvements that were not statisticaly significant were found for the mental/social dimensions in the climbing group. The heterogeneity of data was moderate/high (social/mental dimension), and for the physical dimension, data were homogenous.

CONCLUSIONS: The studies investigating TC outline its positive effects in various patient groups. TC is a safe and effective treatment for improving physical/mental/social well-being. This review is based on the best available evidence; however, significant gaps remain in providing sufficiently strong evidence. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

PMID:36031691 | DOI:10.1002/pmrj.12891

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