August 27, 2009
Dr. Tony Webster, a CrossFitter who teaches undergraduate courses in exercise education, finds a connection between our detractors and the evolution of physical activity guidelines. He takes a look at what’s next.
Many academics and fitness professionals are highly suspicious of CrossFit. In turn, CrossFitters are often quick to dismiss conventional fitness approaches. It doesn’t have to be this way. Call me optimistic, but I think we can learn a lot from each other.
Until 1990, the definition of “exercise” was rather limited. The definition slowly became clearer, and in 2007 the American Heart Association (AHA) and American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) released a joint updated recommendation that contained an important recognition of the potency of vigorous physical activity. The AHA/ACSM guidelines state, “To promote and maintain health, all healthy adults aged 18 to 65 years need moderate intensity aerobic (endurance) physical activity for a minimum of 30 minutes on five days each week or vigorous intensity aerobic physical activity for a minimum of 20 minutes on three days each week.”
The addition of the vigorous-intensity phrase was significant. It’s safe to say that a CrossFit-style program performed three-to-five times per week will almost certainly provide a weekly dose of “vigorous” aerobic exercise that will easily satisfy current public-health guidelines.
More and more research studies are demonstrating the efficacy of shorter high-intensity exercise bouts in improving not only fitness but also a whole range of health markers. In fact, plenty of scientific evidence suggests vigorous activity has inherently greater health benefits than moderate activity. Used safely and sensibly, I believe CrossFit has potential not just to change people’s lives, but also to change the fitness industry for the better.