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CrossFit gyms, known as “boxes,” are popping up around the world as it grows in popularity. So, what is CrossFit and what are the health benefits and risks?

CrossFit is a form of high-intensity power fitness (HIPT). A CrossFit workout may include dynamic exercises like:

  • plyometric jumping
  • Olympic weightlifting
  • kettlebells
  • explosive bodyweight movements

Read on to learn about the benefits of CrossFit and whether it’s right for you.

The high-intensity, multi-joint movements in CrossFit may help you gain muscle strength and stamina. Adding additional weight to your workouts can further increase muscle gain by adding stress to your muscles.

You can also continuously challenge your muscles by participating in the workout of the day, which will give your muscles some variety. The workout of the day, or WOD, is a signature part of the CrossFit program. Each day, a new set of exercises is posted. The goal is then to complete as many repetitions of each exercise as possible in a set period of time.

CrossFit’s high-intensity power training (HIPT). This type of training may help to increase VO2 max, or the maximum amount of oxygen you can utilize during exercise.

However, research has been inconclusive on both the short- and long-term effects of CrossFit on physiological changes and aerobic benefits. More research is needed to understand how CrossFit improves aerobic fitness compared to other forms of exercise.

CrossFit workouts often include functional exercises, or exercises that mimic movements you do in everyday life. Functional movements, such as squats, kettlebell swings, or overhead presses, can help improve agility, balance, and flexibility.

They also can reduce your risk for injury and improve your quality of life as you age.

CrossFit workouts may help you burn more calories than other workouts. On average, a 195-pound male or 165-pound female will burn 15 to 18 calories per minute and 13 to 15 calories per minute, respectively, during a CrossFit circuit. You may also continue to burn calories during the recovery period.

That’s compared to 11 calories per minute and 9 calories per minute during traditional weightlifting using machines.

If your goal is weight loss, try following a healthy diet in addition to following a CrossFit exercise regimen.

CrossFit is a high-intensity form of exercise. Your risk for injuries increases anytime you increase the intensity of your workouts or the amount of weight you’re lifting.

Some common CrossFit injuries include:

If you’re new to CrossFit, it’s a smart idea to work with a trained fitness professional that can make sure you’re doing the exercises properly. Having improper form, trying to move through exercises too quickly, or lifting more than you can handle can all lead to injury.

Beginners should go at a slower pace and increase weight gradually until your fitness level improves.

CrossFit isn’t safe for everyone. If you’re pregnant and already practicing CrossFit, it may be fine to continue, but make sure to talk to your doctor first. If you’re pregnant and new to CrossFit, you should wait until after your pregnancy to start.

CrossFit isn’t safe if you’re injured or have other serious health concerns, either. Make sure you get cleared by your doctor first or work with a physical therapist before starting CrossFit.

If you’re over age 65 and already physically fit, CrossFit may or may not be safe for you to try. Talk to your doctor before starting.

If you’re interested in trying CrossFit, look online for an affiliate box in your area. Most CrossFit centers require beginners to sign up for two or three private or semi-private training sessions. These can cost between $150 and $300 to attend.

Once you’ve completed the training sessions, you can sign up for group CrossFit classes or continue working with a personal trainer.

While it’s possible to do a workout of the day on your own after you’re familiar with the CrossFit exercises, if you’re a beginner, you should work with a trained professional at a CrossFit box first.

The instructors can model each of the moves and watch your form to confirm you’re doing it correctly. They can also introduce you to all of the equipment.

CrossFit exercises can be modified to accommodate beginners or those new to fitness. You’ll still need to work with the trainers at your local box to start. You may want to work one-on-one with a trainer for longer until you feel comfortable and increase your fitness level.

If you’re new to CrossFit, always go at your own pace and don’t lift more weight than you’re comfortable with. Easing into exercise will help decrease your risk for injuries.

CrossFit is a high-impact form of fitness. Always check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program like CrossFit, especially if you’re new to exercise or live with a health condition.

CrossFit may be an effective workout for losing weight, building strength, agility, and flexibility, and improving your aerobic fitness. It may not be right for everyone, however.

If you have a health condition or injury, talk to your doctor before trying CrossFit, and consider working with an instructor when you’re starting instead of relying on online videos or workouts. They can help you learn proper form which may reduce your risk for injury.

CrossFit classes generally focus on creating a community. For that reason, you may prefer CrossFit classes instead of doing the workouts on your own.