Montagnaterapia: from physical ascent to health path

Montagnaterapia: from physical ascent to health path

The mountains can also have a therapeutic value: this approach is called mountain therapy and many types of users can benefit from it, from people with disabilities to those engaged in an addiction recovery program.


  • What is mountain therapy
  • Who is the mountain therapy for?
  • The activities of mountain therapy
  • The national meeting of the CAI

What is mountain therapy

The mountains are the scene of extraordinary and sometimes extreme feats, as those who follow with bated breath the climbs of the great mountaineers know well. But not only. The mountain is also that ecosystem in which one can finally feel free , forgetting the obsessive rhythms and suffocating spaces of the city. The ecosystem in which to let oneself be seized by the wonder in front of nature, in comparison with which one feels tiny. The ecosystem in which to test oneself physically and psychologically , but always respecting one’s limits and the rules that the mountain itself imposes.


It is no coincidence that the mountains can also become a place for rehabilitation, prevention and education . This approach is called mountain therapy , born in the nineties and takes the form of a series of activities in the mountain environment aimed at fragile people , designed and conducted by expert personnel.  


Who is the mountain therapy for?

As Ornella Giordana , referent of the Italian Alpine Club (CAI) for mountain therapy, explains, this approach can bring benefits to different types of users:

  • people with physical disabilities , such as blind people and people with reduced mobility;
  • people with cognitive disabilities (“Mountain therapy was born from psychiatry, with really unexpected results”, he says);
  • diabetic people , as physical movement lowers blood sugar;
  • breast cancer operated women ;
  • patients who have suffered a heart attack ;
  • middle and high school students, with a view to preventing early school leaving  .


The activities of mountain therapy

In practice, then, how does mountain therapy work ? “We, as CAI, are contacted by ASL operators, doctors, psychologists, associations or cooperatives who tell us: we have a specific user group that has embarked on a path, perhaps even psychological and pharmacological, and would like to accompany it with the attendance of the mountain ”, explains Ornella Giordana. “At that point, we sit down with the operators and define the activities with them , adjusting them to the needs of the users. It is always the professional operators who evaluate the clinical-relational aspect, monitoring the intermediate and final objectives “.


The numbers? Of the five hundred sections of the CAI in the Italian territory, about 130 also follow mountain therapy projects . The most practiced activity of all (in about 80% of cases) is hiking , also because it allows you to gradually approach the mountain environment, choosing routes that are within the reach of users (disabled and not). “ Climbing can be very useful for recovering from addictions , because it also physically tests and helps build relationships of trust,” continues Giordana.  


The degree of difficulty must be evaluated from time to time, because it must be functional to the needs of the users. Thus, there are groups in which we mainly dedicate ourselves to the relational aspect and others in which we get some good satisfaction also from the mountaineering point of view. What matters is that ” the mountain environment has peculiarities and unique values ​​at an educational level “, explains Ornella Giordana. “Initially it often happens that people are sedentary and poorly trained, also due to the use of drugs. After the first step in the mountains, however, a physical and mental response is activated that really gives a great return. It hardly ever happens that users abandon the project ”.


The national meeting of the CAI

In 2021 there was also the opportunity to celebrate and highlight the work that the various sections of the CAI have been carrying out together with disabled people for years. In fact, on Saturday 11 and Sunday 12 September, “A free wheel” took place , the first national hiking meeting adapted in Val Parma, within the regional park of the 100 Lakes.


The CAI has made available some aids for disabled people: the most common is the joëlette , a single-wheel wheelchair that must be followed by at least two companions, but there are also the off road e-handbike , for those who can take advantage of the propulsion of the arms. , and the tandem-mtb , for those with visual difficulties. Participation exceeded all expectations, with over three hundred people including people with motor disabilities, blind people, carers and family members, coming from all over Italy. So much so that the next appointment to mark on the agenda has already been set: Domodossola, 10-11 September 2022 .


In the meantime, unveils Ornella Giordana, the CAI has involved the whole world of disability (associations, doctors, therapists and Inail) for a great team effort: to study the accessibility of 90 thousand km of trails in Italy , to identify and report suitable ones. to people with reduced mobility. 

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