Lift to Live Well

Here is a little gem from the mothership (crossfit.com) on the application of CrossFit to seniors. We have several seniors at Catacombs and they are inspiring to even the hardest charging fire breathers. I find this research compelling as personally, I want to be active, strong, healthy, and full of life when I have grandchildren running around. While the seniors we have at Catacombs are in far superior condition to those participating in the study, it is encouraging to see the principles of functional fitness applied to this demographic. I am including an excerpt below, but you can read the full article here: Lift to Live Well by Sharon Mallia in the CrossFit Journal.

"CrossFit is becoming increasingly popular in older populations, but so far no academic studies have delved into the topic of CrossFit and older adults. The primary objective of this study was to test whether CrossFit principles can be safely and effectively used to improve the physical function of older adults, consequently increasing their level of independence in activities of daily living and offering them better quality of life. The second aim was to investigate the perception older adults have of this training program.

The study population consisted of 20 older adults (19 females and 1 male) who were voluntarily recruited from two residential-age care homes in Malta. The ages varied between 75 and 91 years old, with a mean age of 84. The intervention consisted of 16 CrossFit-based exercise classes, with two sessions taking place every week for eight weeks and each session lasting between 45 minutes and an hour. The participants’ level of functional fitness was measured before and at the end of the intervention using the Senior Fitness Test, which is composed of a battery of test items specifically designed to assess the four physical parameters identified as being the relevant components of functional fitness in older adults: muscular strength, aerobic endurance, flexibility, and agility and dynamic balance. All sessions included a dynamic warm-up, skill/strength work, a conditioning component and stretching.

Results: All the participants led a sedentary lifestyle and started the intervention at rather poor fitness levels. Some used walking aids, and others could not even rise from a chair without having to ask for assistance. For this reason, all the exercises had to be highly scaled. However, following eight weeks of training, all participants still achieved a satisfactory improvement in both upper- and lower-body strength as measured by the chair-stand test (45.8 percent average improvement) and the arm-curl test (39.2 percent average improvement). This supports the idea that although high training intensities appear to be necessary to achieve muscle hypertrophy, training at lower intensities is sufficient to initiate neuromuscular improvements.

There was also a marked improvement in aerobic endurance (21 percent average improvement) as measured by the two-minute step test, and the participants claimed that since they started taking part in this CrossFit-based exercise program, they felt increasingly fit and energetic. More importantly, this increase in exercise tolerance enabled them to complete activities they were not able to do before, such as going to the market or simply managing a flight of stairs. According to their initial scores of agility and dynamic balance, all participants were at an increased risk of falling. At the end of the intervention, this study found an average improvement of 15 percent in the participants’ agility and dynamic balance as measured by the timed up-and-go test.

Over and above the physical improvements, CrossFit gave participants the opportunity to improve self confidence, build new friendships and widen their social circle. While exercise served as a communal topic in conversation, it made them feel more included and more confident

Overall, the CrossFit-based exercise program implemented by this study was a success, suggesting that two CrossFit-based exercise classes per week have the ability to enhance the level of physical function in older adults, including those in their eighth and ninth decades of life and those living in long-term residential care. Older adults perceive CrossFit as a fun method of training and recognize that its functional nature and holistic approach can help them improve their ability to carry out everyday tasks and subsequently retain their independence. Finally, implementing a CrossFit-based exercise program for older adults is feasible even with restricted financial resources because every open space can be adapted and used for training."