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How CrossFit Training Can Prevent and Cure Osteoporosis

Cure Osteoporosis with CrossFit

One of the most serious health concerns for anyone 50 or older is osteoporosis, a disease which can lead to bones becoming weak and brittle and much more likely to fracture. This chronic condition can affect your grandparents, your parents or you if you are a part of the “baby boomer’ generation.

The interesting thing about osteoporosis is its cure. Orthopedic specialists note that the condition can be prevented or corrected with vigorous exercise, including weight training. It is for this reason that CrossFit training is becoming an important part of every older person’s life.

Before getting in to how and why this high-impact exercise cures or prevents osteoporosis, here are some sobering facts about the disease.

Bone of Contention

According to the Mayo Clinic, osteoporosis “affects men and women of all races. But white and Asian women — especially older women who are past menopause — are at highest risk. Medications, healthy diet and weight-bearing exercise can help prevent bone loss or strengthen already weak bones.”

Basically, older individuals contract osteoporosis due to the nature of human bones as they age. Bone is living tissue that is constantly being broken down and replaced. Osteoporosis occurs when the creation of new bone doesn't keep up with the removal of old bone.

Fight loneliness and Osteoporosis

Just the facts from the International Osteoporosis Foundation:

  • Worldwide, osteoporosis causes more than 8.9 million fractures annually, resulting in an osteoporotic fracture every 3 seconds.
  • Osteoporosis is estimated to affect 200 million women worldwide.
  • Osteoporosis affects an estimated 75 million people in Europe, USA and Japan.
  • For the year 2000, there were an estimated 9 million new osteoporotic fractures, of which 1.6 million were at the hip, 1.7 million were at the forearm and 1.4 million were clinical vertebral fractures.
  • Worldwide, 1 in 3 women over age 50 will experience osteoporotic fractures, as will 1 in 5 men aged over 50.
  • Nearly 75% of hip, spine and distal forearm fractures occur among patients 65 years old or over.
  • A 10% loss of bone mass in the vertebrae can double the risk of vertebral fractures, and similarly, a 10% loss of bone mass in the hip can result in a 2.5 times greater risk of hip fracture.
  • Osteoporosis takes a huge personal and economic toll. In Europe, the disability due to osteoporosis is greater than that caused by cancers  and is comparable or greater than that lost to a variety of chronic non-communicable diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, asthma and high blood pressure related heart disease
  • In women over 45 years of age, osteoporosis accounts for more days spent in hospital than many other diseases, including diabetes, myocardial infarction and breast cancer.

    A Recent Study on High Impact Exercise and Osteoporosis


    German researchers recently published the results of their study on the effect of high-impact exercise, including weight training on reducing the incidence of osteoporosis. The results were surprising.

    Bone density scans were taken at regular intervals of all participants including a control group of 43 and diet, medications, weight changes, depression and other factors which might affect this exercise regime were considered in the analysis. Of the group of regular, high-impact exercisers, bone density decreased by 1.5 percent in the spine and 5.7 percent in the hip. Among the control group (which did little or no exercise), spine bone density declined by 5.8 percent and hip density declined by 9.7 percent. Researchers found this difference between the groups as significant.

    CrossFit group exercising

    Supervised Weight Training

    If vigorous exercise, including weight training, is the key to preventing or correcting osteoporosis, what part can CrossFit training play in this process? The answer is not as simple as it seems.

    The challenge for older individuals who choose to undertake any type of exercise regime lies in the potential for injury while completing the workout. Thus, if the workout is not structured properly – designed and supervised by a professional CrossFit trainer - the “cure” becomes more dangerous than the disease.

    As is the case with anyone, or any age, proper diet and a regular, managed CrossFit training program can literally increase bone density and prevent or correct osteoporosis. According to RX Review, “The best way to build bone mass is through weight bearing exercise. Research has shown that resistance training and impact loading exercises can restore bone mineral density in middle-aged men and women.” This includes weight training, jogging and plyometrics.

    Eating the correct food and getting more vitamin supplements are also critical to this process. RX adds, “Most of us get these micronutrients from milk, yogurt, and green leafy vegetables. If you are in your 40’s or older, you may want to consider taking supplements that contain Calcium and Vitamin D.”

    Before embarking on any CrossFit training, anyone 50 or older should see their family physician or orthopedic specialist to get a bone scan in order to determine their current bone strength. The physician will make recommendations as to the pace of and rigor of the exercise program.

    CrossFit experts suggest the following weight training to prevent or correct osteoporosis:

    • Any exercises using weights – starting slowly, with less weight
    • Dead lifts
    • Clean and jerk
    • Back Squats
    • Tire-flipping – starting with lighter weight and progressing
    • Running – starting slowly and increasing pace
    • Aerobic exercises

    If you care about your parents, grandparents or your own health as you age, check out CrossFit training. Osteoporosis is one disease that can be prevented and even cured. All it takes is a regular program of high-impact, but supervised, exercise.

    Have you had an experience with osteoporosis with yourself or a family member? Did you use CrossFit training to correct this condition? Contact us  and tell us about it. We will share with our community.

    What is That Pain Telling You to Do?


    Anyone who has made the commitment to exercise, lift weights, bike or practice yoga regularly has experienced some kind of pain. Whether it’s a minor, painful twinge on the morning after a light workout or the mind-numbing-think-you’re-going-to-die kind of pain that often occurs after a high-intensity CrossFit training session, there are good reasons to be aware and grow from this pain and soreness.

    Most people embark on a fitness program to lose excess weight and build muscle mass. These are valid objectives and they can lead to muscle soreness and localized pain. Here’s why.

    According to the physicians at the Mayo Clinic, the most common causes of muscle pain are tension, stress, overuse and minor injuries. This type of pain is usually localized, affecting just one or more muscles or parts of your body. Systemic muscle pain, which you feel throughout your body, is different. It's more often the result of an infection, an illness or a side effect of a medication.

    Some common causes of muscle pain include:

    • Delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS)
    • Medications, especially statins
    • Muscle cramps 
    • Muscle strain or rupture
    • Repetitive strain injuries
    • Rhabdomyolysis, a potentially life-threatening condition in which muscle fibers break down and enter your bloodstream — sometimes as a side effect of using statin drugs

    The BuiltLean website notes that after a workout, the body repairs or replaces damaged muscle fibers through a cellular process where it fuses muscle fibers together to form new muscle protein strands or myofibrils. These repaired myofibrils increase in thickness and number to create muscle growth. This growth occurs whenever the rate of muscle protein synthesis is greater than the rate of muscle protein breakdown. This adaption, however, does not happen while you actually lift the weights. Instead, it occurs while you rest.

    How do these muscles grow? So-called “satellite” cells act like stem cells for your muscles. When activated, they help to add more nuclei to the muscle cells and therefore contribute directly to the growth of myofibrils which are muscle cells. How are the activated? Stress. It’s a simple formula: Stress is cause and muscle growth is the affect.

    In order to produce muscle growth, it is necessary to apply a load of stress greater than what one’s body or muscles had previously adapted too. This will inevitably lead to the bane of every fitness junkie – soreness.

    BuiltLean notes that “If you’ve ever felt sore after a workout, you have experienced the localized muscle damage from working out. This local muscle damage causes a release of inflammatory molecules and immune system cells that activate satellite cells to jump into action.”


    Is Pain a Big Red Stop Sign?

    The kind of pain which is typically experienced by CrossFit participants is the delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS), and there is a difference of opinion about the “lessons to be learned” from this type of pain. According to Dr. Tony Webster, who works within the Pacific Institute for Sport Excellence at Camosun College in Victoria, Canada, and CrossFit athlete, “It is often taught by fitness experts, and even by many sport coaches, that muscle soreness is a sign of having “overdone” it, to be avoided where possible. It is also taught that lactic acid is the cause of soreness and that post-exercise static stretching will reduce or eliminate DOMS.”

    “For many specialized athletes,” he notes, “muscle soreness tends to be an issue only after prolonged layoffs from their sport or after training sessions that have been unusually tough or substantially different from normal. In CrossFit, of course, there is no “normal,” just constantly varied functional movements performed at high intensity: the perfect recipe, as it turns out, for ongoing muscle damage and soreness.”

    Webster continues. “The main consequence of muscle damage that we all feel is DOMS. This is soreness that first appears about eight hours after the exercise bout and typically peaks about 24-48 hours later. It’s particularly noticeable when you get out of bed in the morning. We experience muscle tenderness, pain when we touch the muscle, and stiffness that causes pain when we move or stretch it. With some gentle movement the pain usually subsides, but after prolonged periods of little movement (sitting in front of a computer, for example) it rears its ugly head again. Usually the DOMS will have mostly disappeared after about four to five days, but can persist for longer in some cases, as most CrossFitters can tell you.”

    (stock image of CrossFit training class with participants smiling or laughing)

    Dr. Webster notes that the major reason why DOMS is a recurring theme in CrossFit is the emphasis on constantly varied movement patterns. “A specialized athlete will typically use similar muscle groups day in and day out. Thus, the specific muscles concerned will adapt and become quite resistant to muscle damage and DOMS. The CrossFit athlete is using a far greater diversity of muscle groups with constantly differing movement patterns. The result is that we will regularly be hitting muscles with unaccustomed exercises. Voila! DOMS is inevitable in this scenario.”

    No Pain. No Gain

    Training is all about increasing strength in muscles and decreasing the time of recovery from the work. This is referred to by experts on physiology at the “repeated bout effect.” It means that a similar bout of exercise will not have the same consequences as before. While it is complicated medical process, Webster notes that it is “a combination of increased structural strength of muscle fibers, metabolic adaptation and neuromuscular changes. A key point is that if we go back to being a couch potato all that good work and adaptation will disappear within a few weeks.”

    Is the often intense pain and soreness that CrossFit trainers experience after a workout a sign that they are overdoing it? Perhaps, but maybe not.

    Maybe this pain is a sign that the muscles are being broken down and being repaired, becoming even stronger that they were before. Professional guidance from qualified CrossFit trainers and a knowledge of one’s own body are two factors that will help in this determination.

    In the meantime, there is much truth in the old adage: No pain. No gain.

    What CrossFit exercises cause you the most pain and what do you do about it? Contact us and we’ll share your story with our readers.


    CrossFit Training is Making the Military Combat-Ready

    military enlistment office

    In war and in peace, the branches of the United States military have always represented a cross-section of America men – Southerners and Yankees, California surfers and Minnesota skiers.  On December 3, 2015, the Secretary of Defense, decided that all U.S. military combat positions are being opened up to women. This means that women will fill about 220,000 jobs including formerly male-only positions such as infantry, armor, reconnaissance and special operations units and the mosaic of Americans in the military will be even more representative of the country as a whole.

    Unfortunately, the fitness of the “average” American man and woman is so poor that the leadership of the military branches is concerned about this the group of young soldiers succeeding in combat.  Sadly, the “Greatest Generation” has become the “Fattest Generation” and this has the potential of diminishing the fighting ability of our troops. This situation, along with the chronic obesity of the children who will be the next generation of U.S. soldiers, has forced the military to reconsider its physical fitness training.

    Because of its popularity among soldiers – both new recruits and officers and especially the Navy SEAL program – CrossFit training has become a part of this conversation to fix the fitness of our fighting men and women.

    An Early Study Showed the Effectiveness of CrossFit Training

    In May 2010, the U.S. Army published a 69-page study evaluating the CrossFit program and its effects on combat fitness. This document summarizes the findings of a comprehensive evaluation of 14 military athletes over an eight-week period.

    As noted in that report, “the purpose of this study was to test the CrossFit fitness program and methodology to increase the physical fitness of U.S. Army soldiers. Over the past several years, the CrossFit fitness program has gained popularity among U.S. Army soldiers and leaders.”

    According the final report of this research, “Since the creation of the U.S Army, physical fitness training has played an important role in combat readiness. However, throughout its history the U.S. Army’s method for conducting physical fitness training has changed and evolved.  Most recently, in the late 1990s, the U.S. Army began to see evidence that its method of conducting physical training was not producing Soldiers ready for the rigors of modern ground combat.”

    “This reality began a general move within the U.S. military towards functional fitness programs as many leaders and organizations began to rethink physical training and its relation to combat readiness. In 2006, it was estimated that up to 7,000 members of the U.S. military were using the CrossFit program regularly.  That number has grown exponentially since then represented by the fact that there are now over 58 non-profit military CrossFit affiliates throughout the world, to include affiliates at many major U.S. Army installations like Fort Bragg, Fort Hood, Fort Polk, Fort Knox, Fort Meade, Fort Leavenworth, the Pentagon and the U.S. Military Academy.”

    This idea of functional fitness is a critical component of the U.S. military training. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Functional fitness exercises train your muscles to work together and prepare them for daily tasks by simulating common movements you might do at home, at work or in sports. While using various muscles in the upper and lower body at the same time, functional fitness exercises also emphasize core stability.”

    This study produced four important findings. Here are the highlights.

    1. Over the eight-week study, every athlete experienced an increase in their work capacity, measured in terms of power output, with an average increase of 20 percent.  Therefore, we believe the CrossFit program was successful in increasing every athlete’s general level of physical fitness.  
    2. While those athletes that were least fit at the beginning of the study saw the largest net gains in work capacity, even the most-fit athletes in the study experienced significant gains.  The results of our study indicate that above average athletes overall work capacity increased 14.38 percent.  One of our most fit athletes, with considerable CrossFit experience, saw a gain of 28.3percent in overall work capacity.  
    3. Despite a generalized training program that did not specifically train the athletes for any of the assessments, the athletes’ performance on the assessments improved.  For example, on the one repetition maximum weight deadlift assessment, the athletes mean increase in work capacity increased 21.11 percent. These results lead to the conclusion that generalized training can prepare athletes for unknown and unknowable events, a crucial capability in combat, and can produce improvement in specialized events despite non-specialized training.    
    4. Generally the athletes in the study experienced relatively equal increases in power output in each of the assessments.  This indicates a balanced increase in performance across metabolic pathways and across the ten general physical skills.  We believe the consistency of improvement across assessments validates the CrossFit program’s claim that it produces a broad and inclusive brand of fitness.  

    CrossFit is Making the Army of One Stronger

    The current lack of physical fitness among young people is sad. However, if this condition impacts our U.S. fighting forces, the situation becomes more dire than merely sad. It becomes one of national concern. For its part, the U.S. Army has seen the benefit of CrossFit in preparing its recruits for physical challenge of combat and made the training its Physical Readiness Training (PRT) program.

    As for those young people in high school and college, especially those who are contemplating a military enlistment, getting involved in CrossFit training would be highly advisable. If you’ve been in the military and have benefitted from CrossFit training, contact us and let us share your story with our readers.