Is CrossFit safe for seniors? According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, only 28-34% of adults in the 65-74 year age bracket are physically active.
Inactivity can cause many problems including slower metabolism, obesity, Type 2 diabetes, and an increased risk of heart disease. Thus exercise is important regardless of age.
Exercise is a great way to get more movement into your day. And CrossFit is an intense exercise style that has grown in its’ popularity over the last few years. If you have heard about CrossFit and wondered whether it is safe for seniors, you are in the right place!
Is CrossFit safe for seniors?
With its focus on functional movement, and a supportive community of enthusiasts, CrossFit has grown wildly popular over the last few years. Many seniors are joining classes and seeing remarkable results in their quality of life.
They have better range of motion, more confidence in their movements, and make new friends. As the founder of CrossFit, Greg Glassman wrote, “The needs of an Olympic athlete and our grandparents differ by degree not kind.” There are definitely parts of CrossFit that work well for older adults.
But like any exercise program, CrossFit is not for everyone. Not all seniors will benefit from CrossFit. There are serious risks involved, including serious injury, and a condition called Rhabdomyolysis. This is where your muscle fibers die from overuse or injury and release nasty chemicals into your bloodstream. It can be a life-threatening condition.
That’s why it’s so important to speak to your doctor before beginning any exercise program, and make sure it’s appropriate for you. Once you’ve done that, you need to find a qualified coach.
Find the right coach
After getting clearance from your doctor to begin an exercise program, you need to find a CrossFit program to join. There are many different instructors out there, and not all of them have experience modifying the program for older participants.
There are gyms that offer a CrossFit class geared towards the elderly. If you have one in your area, this could be a good match. If not, look for a CrossFit coach who:
- Evaluates participants’ movement and ability before beginning, and asks plenty of questions to determine their overall fitness level
- Has worked with participants at a similar fitness level before
- Is comfortable scaling routines for both load and intensity
Once you find a trainer you are comfortable working around, take it slowly at first. If you haven’t been active before, don’t jump into an intense five-day a week schedule. Slowly add more movement to your life and build from there.
Injuries are possible when you exercise, especially if your body isn’t used to moving. That’s why it’s so important to take it slowly. You also need to warm up before each class. This time to warm up your muscles is typically built into a CrossFit class.
It’s also important to cool down. Give your muscles a chance to slowly stop working when you’ve finished a workout. This helps reduce your chance of sprains and strains.
Don’t do too much at once. While your goal may be to lift a certain weight, don’t hurt yourself trying to get there. Instead, take baby steps to help you arrive safely at your goal.
CrossFit is competitive in nature. While this can provide motivation, it can also encourage some people to push themselves too far. Instead of trying to compete with the other participants, try focusing on your own goals. Just getting more active can have a tremendous positive impact on your life, so don’t get so caught up on being the best that you hurt yourself in the process.
Finally, remember that you are in control of your body. The trainer can give you advice to help prevent injury, but only you know what you are feeling. If you are in pain, stop and let your coach know. Get treatment when needed and give your body time to rest and heal.
CrossFit can be a good fit for some seniors
If done properly, under the supervision of a coach who has worked with seniors before, CrossFit can be a great exercise program for some seniors. But, it is not safe for everyone. If you’re too competitive, or find a coach who pushes you too much, your chance of injury increases.
Take it slow and have some fun. Your body will thank you for getting active!
Do you know a senior who is thinking about starting CrossFit? Send this article to them so they minimize their risk of injury.