Have you heard about CrossFit?
If you know someone who participates in this demanding, body-changing, group workout then chances are that you have heard about it quite a bit.
That’s the joke. People who CrossFit love to tell people about it. They are so enthusiastic about its role in their lives.
And with good reason. CrossFit is more than a workout. People who attend CrossFit sessions support and encourage each other every day, and as a result, a real sense of community is created.
In reality, it’s a kind of support group.
According to a recent observational study by a social and behavioral scientist from Texas A&M, the community created by participation in CrossFit may also support people who are in recovery from addiction.
If you’re working on your recovery from addiction to drugs or alcohol, CrossFit might be a great activity for you. You’ll likely sign up to get in shape, but you may leave with a lot more than you bargained for.
Read on to learn more about why CrossFit may be a great idea for people walking a clean and sober path.
What Is CrossFit?
There are a million different workout programs out there. All of them swear that they are different from all the rest. In a way, this is true; every workout and gym that is marketed to the masses does have its own special twist.
CrossFit is a workout that was founded by Greg Glassman in 2000 in Santa Cruz, California. It’s more than just exercise; as anyone involved in CrossFit will tell you, it’s a workout and a philosophy, and for those who wish to take it further than that, it’s also a competitive sport.
One reason that people like CrossFit is that it combines a number of different types of exercise into one. The workouts are completed in a gym setting with other participants. A “Workout of the Day” or WOD may include elements of high-intensity interval training, weightlifting, plyometrics, gymnastics, calisthenics, and more. The WOD changes every day, which keeps the workouts interesting, and over the course of the week, every muscle of the body is challenged.
WODs are difficult but they can be adjusted to the ability of any participant, so people of all ages, abilities, genders, and backgrounds take part. This is another big reason that so many people love it. It’s accessible to everyone, and not only that, but the other participants are encouraged to support and encourage each other. This supportive environment helps participants to reach goals they never thought that they could.
As you can see, the benefits of this type of workout to people working on their recovery from addiction are obvious. That’s why Dr. Megan S. Patterson decided to dig a little deeper to see what connections she could find.
The CrossFit Observational Study
Dr. Megan S. Patterson, PhD, MPH, is an assistant professor in the Department of Kinesiology at Texas A&M University. Much of the research she does focuses on the ways that social networks can positively impact the health and well-being of both individuals and communities.
She had previously worked at Baylor University where she was the Director of Wellness. There, she noticed that students who participated in group-based exercise experienced lower levels of anxiety. Also, the subset of those students who were working on their recovery from addiction seemed to have more support from their peers and higher rates of longer-term sobriety. She noticed a clear correlation between the retention of sobriety and participation in group exercise which she found notable.
When Patterson began working at Texas A&M, she was paired with a junior professor, Dr. Katie Heinrich from Kansas State University, in a national mentorship program. The pair found that they were interested in similar things. However, Heinrich’s research focused of CrossFit, a subject that Patterson had not considered investigating before.
Patterson dove into this topic headfirst. She found that there had never yet been a study about CrossFit’s effect on addiction recovery, but she did find seventy-two articles that suggested that CrossFit could be a supportive part of the process for numerous reasons. These articles listed reasons why CrossFit and addiction recovery can go hand in hand, citing the dedication of participants, the supportive community, and the desire to improve one’s body and mind.
Now, Patterson is launching a study to investigate this further. She is working together with CrossFit. The study will take place in a CrossFit gym that is specifically tailored to addiction recovery. The social environment of the gym will be studied closely and participants will be interviewed on a regular basis about the ways that CrossFit contributes to their recovery.
Patterson believes that CrossFit can help people to feel more confident in their recovering bodies and that the group dynamic can inspire a feeling of belonging. The group’s support system can aid participants in avoiding triggers and in preventing relapses as well.
CrossFit & Addiction Recovery
It will be interesting to see the results of Dr. Patterson’s study and follow-up studies when they are all complete. It’s likely that she is onto something; this workout has been around for twenty years and it continues to grow in popularity year after year.
People who do CrossFit love CrossFit, so there must be something to it that make people so ravenous to dive in full force and stick with it not only until they reach their goals, but after that as well. It should be no surprise that this sort of community and support system would transfer well to supporting people working on their recovery from addiction to drugs or alcohol.
Although the results of this study may be months or even years away, if CrossFit sounds interesting to you, perhaps you should give it a try. You may find that you love it just as much as all the others. Good luck!
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