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The Health Benefits of CrossFit

8 min read

By Emily Lockhart

Medically Reviewed by Eric Leckie, PT

For the last few years there have been few workout trends bigger than CrossFit, a type of exercise routine that’s designed to help participants build muscle and cut fat by engaging in particularly intense activities.

But does CrossFit actually work? Is it worth all the hype that now surrounds it? For many people, the answer is most definitely “yes.” To understand why this type of workout has been so successful for so many people, let’s take a closer look at some of the significant physical and mental benefits of participating in CrossFit.

Learn Your Limits

CrossFit is all about engaging in intense activities in order to push your personal limits, both mentally and physically. As such, it will help many individuals learn more about their capabilities, and help them understand what they can achieve.

If you’ve been struggling with your mental or physical health, or both, this can help improve confidence. By regularly testing your limits, and by routinely meeting significant physical and mental challenges, you’ll come to learn more about yourself and your ability to meet goals. This may be particularly helpful if you’re experiencing stress or disappointment in other parts of your life, such as at work or in dating, and give you the confidence required to reach your next level there, too.

Build Endurance

By routinely pushing your mental and physical limitations, CrossFit is bound to help you build your endurance in both areas. It will make you sweat, it will leave you exhausted, it will make you want to give up and hit the couch. But if you stick with it, CrossFit will help you learn more about your capabilities and give you the confidence to reach higher in all areas of your life.

In a physical sense, CrossFit is built to help take your endurance to the next level. By pushing your cardiovascular system to its fullest extent, CrossFit can help your body find ways to free up the oxygen required to complete its demanding workouts. As time goes on, your body will adapt to these remarkable demands by becoming progressively more resilient.

Find Support

Because CrossFit has become so remarkably popular in recent years, there’s a large community of people out there who can help you understand its value and how to perform some of the key moves the right way — thereby reducing your chances of sustaining a painful injury that could sideline you for weeks or even months.

Beyond that, the growing CrossFit community can provide you with the mental support you need to keep pushing yourself to your limits — without going beyond them. By reaching out to individuals with more experience in CrossFit, you can help learn some of the problems that can arise from participating in intense workouts and avoid those pitfalls.

Blow up Your Misconceptions

CrossFit is really effective at helping people realize their limits — and helping them blow up their misconceptions about their own fitness level. For individuals who have found themselves in workout ruts where they carry out the same activities over and over, but struggle to lose those last few pounds or reach the next fitness level, it can do a lot to help them realize what they need to do to reach their goals.

At first, this will be difficult to stomach — metaphorically and literally. The intense workouts that make up CrossFit will push you and your body to your limits and in doing so, will help you realize just how fit you are. It will show you just how much work you have cut out for you in order to become truly fit. And that’s tough to handle, but ultimately it’s an important part of becoming both physically and mentally stronger.

Keep Things Fresh

An integral part of CrossFit is the dynamic nature of the workouts it involves. For example, the CrossFit WOD — or “workout of the day” — changes regularly, and usually includes a unique mix of activities. For example, the WOD typically involves performing a gymnastic move, like pull-ups, a cardio activity, like swimming, and a strength-building exercise, such as dead lifts.

Not only will these ever-changing workouts keep things fresh — an important part of staying interested in your workout routine — but they’ll help you build a wide variety of muscles. For those of us who have grown tired of our workouts, and continue to work the same muscle groups over and over, that can make a world of difference in reaching our personal fitness goals.

Build Discipline

One of the best things about participating in CrossFit is that it forces you to really take responsibility for your existing mental and physical fitness. The workouts are sufficiently intense that they will make just about anyone think carefully about their every meal. Questions you can expect to ask yourself while engaging in CrossFit include “is that chocolate chip cookie worth what I’ll have to do to burn it off?” and “will this meal give me the energy I need to get through my next workout?”

In time, this will help you build an unparalleled level of discipline. Not only will this discipline bring you to the gym on a regular basis, but it will help you make better choices about your diet, how you approach questions like “should I walk, bike, or drive?” and, potentially, in how you think about challenges in other parts of your life, such as your career.

Feel Better

Slow, steady workouts that repeat the same types of exercises over and over are long out of date, and the CrossFit sensation has helped reveal that in a clear way. It’s not just that those slower, less intense workouts burn fewer calories — which they do — but that they tend to release fewer endorphins, meaning they provide less of a mental boost that the more intense activities associated with CrossFit.

What does that mean? You’ll feel a lot better about yourself after a rigorous CrossFit workout than you would going for a slow, easy-going walk or bike ride around the park. And that’s not to say you should give up more casual exercise — in fact, that kind of activity certainly has its value — but to make a real improvement in the way you feel, it takes more intense activities and a more focused effort.

Tap Into Your Inner Strength

There’s huge value in finding an effective way to regularly tap into your innermost strength. It helps build confidence, which can give you the edge you need in so many areas of your life, from making advancements at work to having positive relationships with your friends and family members.

CrossFit offers an amazing opportunity to help you not only discover this strength, but access it on a regular basis. If you’ve ever found yourself bored with your workout — or other areas of your life, from your personal relationships to your career — you know how this can wear on you both mentally and physically. Unearthing that deep, innermost strength can help you push through the tough times and make the most of life’s big and little opportunities.

Fill Out in the Right Way

Not everyone wants to lose weight. And even those people who want to bring their weight under control may not want to technically lose weight, and that’s the way in should be: the goal with any fitness program should be to shed fat and gain muscle, which is typically heavier than fat.

Over time, this may mean you actually gain some weight rather than lose it. And that’s not a bad thing, as your weight won’t have much bearing on how you feel, physically and mentally, after shedding fat and replacing it with muscle in key parts of your body. Additionally, muscle, and especially lean muscle, can help boost your metabolism, giving you the ability to burn calories even at rest.

You’ll Have More Energy

Let’s face it: our minds and bodies were not built for the nine to five grind. It’s simply not natural to force ourselves to get to sleep at a set time each and every day, and to wake up early in order to fight traffic and make it to your desk before the workday officially starts. That’s why so many of us struggle to get enough sleep and why so many feel fatigued throughout the workday.

To help us confront this problem, we often turn to caffeinated beverages like coffee, tea, soda, and energy drinks. But those can pose their own problems, particularly for individuals with heart-health issues, and caffeine is addictive. By engaging in CrossFit workouts, which feature intense activities like squats and burpees, you’ll steadily build up your energy levels to the point where caffeine isn’t necessary. Before you know it, you’ll be taking part in extracurricular activities you never thought you’d have the energy for.

Make Life Easier

When you’re out of shape, it can feel like everything is harder — from walking up a couple flights of stairs, to mowing the lawn, to even getting up in the morning. And sometimes you can feel this way even when you’re going to the gym on a regular basis — that is, if you’ve settled into a slow, steady workout routine that fails to challenge you, mentally or physically.

CrossFit can change everything by using intense physical activities and total-body workouts to help you build your endurance. And this enhanced endurance level won’t just come in handy when you go to the gym, outside for a run, or play recreational sports — it’ll become apparent in every part of your life, from your day-to-day energy levels to how you feel carrying out weekend chores.

Focus Better

It can be hard to focus on our most important activities, like an assignment at work or school, when we’re fatigued. And we’re far more likely to feel exhausted if we’ve settled into a dull workout routine that fails to challenge us. In some cases, that could lead us to fall behind in other areas of our life, such as in our jobs or even in our personal relationships.

CrossFit can help because its intense physical workouts promote energy production and give us the level of focus required to excel in all areas of our life. Beyond that, it can provide us with the kind of self-confidence needed to take on unique physical and mental challenges, allowing us to reach our many goals in life.

DPT, Doctor of Physiotherapy

Eric Leckie is a men's health Physiotherapist specializing in prostate cancer treatment. He completed his studies in Australia earning his Doctor of Physiotherapy from the University of Melbourne. He currently works in a private practice, in addition to owning his own Telehealth Physiotherapy clinic which focuses on treating men with prostate cancer.

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