Considering its recent popularity -- there are currently more than 10 million self-described CrossFitters -- it's worth asking if CrossFit is really all it's cracked up to be. And according to a small new study commissioned by the American Council on Exercise (ACE), your WOD really is working.
A team of researchers from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse's exercise physiology program monitored 16 healthy and fit volunteers as they burpee'd and thrusted their way through two separate CrossFit workouts, Donkey Kong and Fran. The men burned nearly 21 calories a minute while women burned just over 12. Each routine took varying amounts of time to complete, however, all the participants maintained an elevated heart rate throughout the entire workout and reached about 80 percent of their VO2max, satisfying fitness industry guidelines for improving cardiovascular endurance, according to ACE.
No matter how fit they were to begin with, all the volunteers rated the workouts as hard. "Each person was extremely exhausted at the end," Paige Babiash, M.S., told ACE.
The benefits of CrossFit and other high-intensity interval workouts are especially intriguing to many busy people, since they accomplish a lot in a short period of time. But "high-intensity" is the key phrase: These workouts are not for everyone. Not only is CrossFit's intensity "off the charts," Porcari said, but the sport of fitness also encourages competition, which could push some athletes to injury -- or worse. Tales abound of "Uncle Rhabdo", an unofficial mascot of CrossFit, afflicted with rhabdomyolysis, an all-jokes-aside, potentially-fatal breakdown of muscle that could strike CrossFitters who don't respect their limits.
To reap the benefits of CrossFit injury-free, first-timers should look for a gym, called a box, with a caring and invested coaching staff where they can try out some introductory workouts. But with the right nod to safety, the research supports going totally beast mode.