Sturm J, Plöderl M, Fartacek C, Kralovec K, Neunhäuserer D, Niederseer D, Hitzl W, Niebauer J, Schiepek G, Fartacek R. Physical exercise through mountain hiking in high-risk suicide patients. A randomized crossover trial.
Objective: The following crossover pilot study attempts to prove the effects of endurance training through mountain hiking in high-risk suicide patients.
Method: Participants (n = 20) having attempted suicide at least once and clinically diagnosed with hopelessness were randomly distributed among two groups. Group 1 (n = 10) began with a 9-week hiking phase followed by a 9-week control phase. Group 2 (n = 10) worked vice versa. Assessments included the Beck Hopelessness Scale (BHS), Beck Depression Inventory (BDI), Beck Scale of Suicide Ideation (BSI), and maximum physical endurance.
Results: Ten participants of Group 1 and seven participants of Group 2 completed the study. A comparison between conditions showed that, in the hiking phase, there was a significant decrease in hopelessness (P < 0.0001, d = −1.4) and depression (P < 0.0001, d = −1.38), and a significant increase in physical endurance (P < 0.0001, d = 1.0), but no significant effect for suicide ideation (P = 0.25, d = −0.29). However, within the hiking phase, there was a significant decrease in suicide ideation (P = 0.005, d = −0.79).
Conclusion: The results suggest that a group experience of regular monitored mountain hiking, organized as an add-on therapy to usual care, is associated with an improvement of hopelessness, depression, and suicide ideation in patients suffering from high-level suicide risk.