Healthypedia
Brenton Barker

CrossFit For Seniors: Everything You Need To Know

CrossFit invokes images of athletes performing powerful moves at breakneck speeds. It's only for the young, right? Wrong. CrossFit is coming for your grandparents, and here's why?

senior crossfit benefits

It goes without saying we all understand the importance of getting regular physical exercise. But many seniors believe their exercise days are long gone.

However, the truth is with good coaching and programming, seniors can still enjoy the physical and cognitive health benefits of exercising.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), seniors can benefit greatly from daily bouts of light to moderate exercise. Elements like flexibility, mobility, and strength training must be incorporated when programming workouts for seniors.

In short, getting older does not mean you automatically become a couch potato. The CDC suggests regular exercise can help seniors with heart disease, obesity and arthritis.

Current exercise guidelines for seniors

Seniors should be undertaking some type of regular exercise on a daily basis. Exercise provides numerous physical health benefits, but it’s the cognitive benefits for seniors that prove even more valuable.

Regular exercise can also reduce the chance of developing a chronic disease like heart disease. Before undertaking any fitness program, seniors are advised to speak to their local GP or healthcare provider.

When designing a program for seniors, the activity must be suitable, and the intensity and duration of the session must also be considered.

Below are the physical activity guidelines for seniors aged 65 and over, according to the NHS.

  • Seniors should perform some type of light exercise daily.

  • Twice a week, perform strength, balance and flexibility exercises.

  • Aim for a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise weekly. Aim for 75 minutes of high-intensity exercise weekly if you’re already relatively active.

  • Avoid sitting for long periods of time. Instead, get up and walk.

Seniors are concerned about falling while exercising, which is why many of them avoid physical activity. However, the truth is exercising will strengthen their joints and muscles and significantly improve their balance and flexibility.

Top five CrossFit benefits for seniors

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The appeal of CrossFit, especially for seniors, is that it focuses on functional movement. As we age, our levels of strength and flexibility slowly decline, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing we can do about it.

CrossFit exercises incorporate movements that mimic the day to day to activities we all undertake, including:

  • Squats

  • Jumps

  • Lunges

  • Cardio

  • Pulling and pushing movements

CrossFit sessions also include movements that can improve the strength and conditioning of all seniors. Many of the CrossFit exercises use medicine balls which are great for developing functional fitness and increasing muscle strength.

One factor that isn’t talked about is the sense of community and support that CrossFit offers seniors. Meeting people of similar ages and experiencing similar health issues can help boost mood and provide a positive outlook.

1Health and longevity

One of the biggest reasons for seniors wanting to improve their fitness is longevity and quality of life. CrossFit is a great way to enhance both because the activity focuses on improving strength, conditioning, and flexibility.

To date, there have been more than 50 peer-reviewed publications that have shown the link between longevity and endurance-related sports. One such study published in the Journal of Aging Research found that being physically active could boost longevity by as much as seven years.

Another study conducted by Population Health Management concluded that exercise and its health benefits were crucial to seniors’ longevity and functional fitness. An added bonus is that the healthier seniors are, the bigger the reduction in healthcare costs.

2Bone and joint health

Many people may find the next piece of advice counterintuitive, but the more you move actually reduces the symptoms associated with arthritis. CrossFit is an excellent way to get seniors moving because it includes exercises like squats that strengthen the joint and the muscles around them.

Exercise also reduces inflammation and boosts joint lubrication, resulting in a reduction in pain. Obviously, these CrossFit exercises must be ‘scaled’ to meet the needs of seniors. For instance, seniors can do bodyweight squats instead of performing weighted squats.

3Boosts immunity

A study conducted in 2018 conclusively showed that performing regular bouts of moderate exercise significantly reduced respiratory illnesses and the amount of sick days employees requested.

Scientists are not entirely sure how exercise boosts our immunity, but most believe it’s due to the anti-inflammatory benefits associated with exercise. Researchers believe that regular bouts of moderate exercise also enhance the efficiency of our immune cells, helping mitigate illness.

4Fun and community

Researchers have known about the physical health benefits that exercise provides for years now. But regular exercise doesn’t just offer physical health benefits; it has cognitive ones, too, such as increasing mood, improving memory and giving participants a sense of community.

Exercise makes us feel great. There’s nothing better than riding a bike or taking a casual stroll and enjoying all mother nature has to offer. A study in 2019 now confirms what we’ve all known; exercise indeed boosts our moods, particularly for those aged 65 and over.

5Disease prevention

As mentioned, many seniors simply believe that their exercise days are long gone, but that’s not the case. Regular exercise has been shown to reduce the chance of developing serious health conditions.

One study published in Frontiers in Immunology showed that leading an active and healthy lifestyle lessens the chance of infectious diseases such as bacterial and viral infections. The same study also showed exercise can reduce the likelihood of developing cancer and other non-communicable diseases.

Another study published in 2015 by Rejuvenation Research also concluded that regular exercise improves symptoms associated with peripheral arterial diseases and mitigates many of the most common age-related health conditions.

CrossFit for seniors: let’s sum up

Despite what people may think, CrossFit has numerous health benefits for seniors looking to improve their fitness and well-being. CrossFit particularly focuses on strength and conditioning, which is important as we age.

Additionally, the increased flexibility and range of motion help seniors improve their balance, meaning they’re much less likely to suffer an injury from falling. CrossFit coaches should design programs specific to the participant’s fitness levels and consider factors such as poor posture or other underlying conditions.

In short, you’re never too old to improve your fitness, and CrossFit is an excellent way to do it. Not to mention it’s a lot of fun and provides the chance to meet other like-minded people.

Happy senior CrossFitting!

Want to learn more?

66-year-old Marcia Walker shows that age is no limit when it comes to reaching peak performance. If you’ve been thinking about CrossFit but are still ‘sitting on the fence,’ this video will inspire you to give CrossFit a go. Marcia says everyone has weaknesses, but the CrossFit community is supportive and inclusive of senior CrossFitters.


Healthypedia FAQ

Simply put, NO. As the old saying goes, ‘age is just a number,’ and it's no different when it comes to CrossFit. With the right coach and an individualised program, CrossFit can greatly benefit seniors, particularly in the areas of improving joint mobility and functional fitness.

Two of the positives of performing CrossFit are that it provides a total body workout and is incredibly challenging. However, those two benefits can also be negatives. If you're someone who wants sport-specific skills, CrossFit isn't for you. Likewise, beginners to fitness will also struggle with the demanding CrossFit classes.

CrossFit is an excellent exercise for seniors because it focuses on improving muscle and joint strength along with enhancing flexibility and range of motion. Additionally, the social aspect of CrossFit has been shown to improve the cognitive health of participants.

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