As CrossFit continues to grow in popularity–and in exposure, thanks to events like The Reebok CrossFit Games—more and more people are looking at CrossFit as an alternative to the typical gym. But people have differing reasons for wanting to join a gym at all: some want to bulk up, some just want to be healthier … and some are specifically trying to lose weight. CrossFit obviously can work for the first two, but is it actually an effective method of weight loss?
What is CrossFit?
Before we get started, let’s define CrossFit for any newcomers. CrossFit is a program developed to improve fitness in every area. The exercise routines are designed to have participants performing functional movements that constantly change at high intensity levels. CrossFit seeks to improve cardiovascular and respiratory endurance, strength, power, speed, agility, accuracy, balance, and coordination.
But CrossFit is more than just a health program; it’s also a culture and a community, a philosophy based on an intense commitment to a strict workout lifestyle. This sense of community is unique; people know each other. Participants encourage one another, discuss goals and results, and stick around post-workout just to provide moral and verbal support to comrades.
CrossFit and Weight Loss
While the basic program may need to be modified slightly for optimal effects, CrossFit has obvious benefits in terms of weight loss:
- It’s very effective at burning calories . According to a report from the American Council on Exercise (ACE) participants can burn anywhere from 13-15 calories per minute during a workout. Better yet, they also have a higher burn rate throughout the afternoon due to the post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC). The EPOC refers to the amount of oxygen your body consumes above resting level after your workout.
- It builds muscle and boosts metabolism . CrossFit is all about building strength and muscle mass. Certainly, that can help streamline your look, but it also increases your metabolism– the number of calories needed to fuel your body’s essential functions, such as breathing and circulating blood. This can be an important contributing factor in weight loss.
- It offers a built in support group . Not everyone believes the climb to the top has to be lonely. One of the most relevant facets of CrossFit is the community we mentioned earlier. Participants are encouraged to share workout results online or directly with others in the group. And since no less of an authority than The Mayo Clinic reports that having a support group increases weight loss success, this benefit of CrossFit particularly applicable.
A Slam Dunk? Not exactly …
While some people successfully leverage CrossFit to lose weight, it’s not necessarily the best choice for everyone. Drawbacks include:
- It has a higher risk for injury . Possibly the greatest downside to CrossFit is that there seems to have an elevated risk for injuries, compared to more common exercise program. That’s not to say it isn’t safe, just that the workouts often include high-risk activities combined with pressure to compete against the clock or against other athletes. This can be a bad formula, especially for newbies who may be coming in from a sedentary lifestyle.
- It’s not easy . Again, people who are new to exercise–or who just haven’t exercised regularly for a while–CrossFit can be too physically demanding. That can lead to people abandoning the program and feeling discouraged about their weight loss goals. Rather than starting, stopping, and having to start again, some people may be better off going straight to an exercise program that is more doable for them.
- The community may be too much . CrossFitters are competitive, no question. That can be a plus, but it can also be whelming for some would-be participants. Those who skip often because they feel too intimidated to participate on a regular basis are probably not going to see long-term, sustainable results.
So Is CrossFit for YOU?
It totally depends. Obviously, we’re big proponents of the program, especially in terms of overall fitness. But in the interest of honesty, we have to admit that if your primary goal is to lose fat as quickly and safely as possible, CrossFit might not be a good fit for you; a more traditional approach of strength and/or cardiovascular training might serve you better.