Is CrossFit Safe? The Top 5 Benefits of CrossFit for Women (And the Risks)

Workouts

Looking for a way to boost your fitness? CrossFit is a popular routine that you’ve probably heard of before. While most people know it by name, few understand what it entails. So, what are the benefits of CrossFit and why should you give it a go?

If you’re curious about this world famous sport, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we’re going to take a look at this intense form of training and explore whether women should try it.

What is CrossFit Training, Anyway?

Founded by Greg Glassman decades ago, CrossFit has now become one of the most popular fitness regimes across the world. According to CrossFit.com, the training technique involves “constantly varied functional movements performed at high intensity.”[1]

Put into simple terms, this means that CrossFit involves a great many activity types which will push your body to its limits. Here are some of the types of activity that are part of a CrossFit exercises routine:

HIIT exercises

woman working out on TRX machine as part of a HIIT workout

High-intensity interval training, or HIIT exercises, involves short bursts of activity followed by periods of rest. For example, you might run at top speed for a minute and then take a 30-second break. This type of activity can burn fat and increase fitness.

Weightlifting

woman lifting a large tire in fitness workout

When you picture a CrossFit gym, you most likely imagine a whole wall lined with weights. You’re not wrong. Lifting is a major part of this type of exercise. The routine includes both weight training days and recovery days. Research shows that rest days are crucial in building muscle and maintaining peak fitness.[2]

Endurance activities

woman running outdoors while listening to music with earphones

Increasing your endurance is a huge part of CrossFit. Workouts might include running long distances or increasing your repetitions when weightlifting. This element of training should help you to boost your stamina and improve your endurance levels overall.

Researchers identify CrossFit (along with similar regimes) as an “extreme conditioning program”.[3] That is a fitness routine which involves a high-volume of high-intensity activities. Interestingly enough, one of the benefits of CrossFit is that it introduces an element of competition into your everyday routine.

Using data and scores, CrossFit athletes can push themselves to new levels time and time again. This aspect of the routine allows trainers to define standards and performances. It also means that participants can motivate themselves to work hard and train more.[4] The general idea is that you try to beat your own scores time and time again.

General CrossFit Benefits

a fit woman in fitness gear standing with her hands on her hips

So, why is CrossFit so popular? Before we go any further, let’s take a moment to look at some of the general benefits of CrossFit. After all, there’s a reason so many people have taken up this regime and swear by it. Here are some of the reasons:

  • Confidence
  • Strength
  • Agility
  • Endurance
  • Fitness
  • Community

People all around the globe have joined this ever-growing community. One of the most notable benefits of CrossFit has to be the social support you get when you start out.[5] From trainers to other participants, the community is brimming with people who can help.

What Are the Benefits of CrossFit for Women?

Now that you understand the basics when it comes to this form of fitness, it’s time to explore the benefits of CrossFit. While both men and women can gain advantages from engaging in this regime, people sometimes overlook the pros for women.

In reality, there’s a whole range of ways that weight training and high intensity workouts can support women’s overall health and wellness. Here are the top five benefits of CrossFit for women and why you should give it a go.

1. CrossFit Weight Loss

woman doing elevated push ups on two stacked rubber tires

If burning fat is the name of the game, you can’t go wrong with CrossFit. One of the greatest advantages to this style of workout is CrossFit weight loss. Research published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning suggests that those following this regime lose significant amounts of weight while gaining muscle.[6] That can only lead to a lean and toned physique which is many a woman’s idea of the perfect body.

The main reason that this form of activity is so effective is that it attacks body fat stores fast while also offering time to rest and recover. That in itself is a recipe for weight loss success. Of course, it’s worth noting that you should couple this with a healthy, protein-rich diet if you’re hoping to see some transformative results.

2. Helps Breast Cancer Survivors

a woman doing lunges in workout gear

Around one in eight women in the US will suffer from breast cancer in her lifetime.[7] Previously doctors advised women who were survivors to ease up on exercise and take things slow. However, research now suggests that there could be some benefits to weightlifting and engaging in low-level CrossFit-style workouts.

One study from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine suggests that lifting weights could tackle the onset of lymphedema symptoms which include hand and arm swelling.[8] These signs are common in women who have undergone breast cancer surgery and can often be hard to live with. The research found that engaging in some weightlifting could help decrease these symptoms, allowing women to live happier, healthier lives.

It should be noted that if you are a breast cancer survivor who wants to embark on a CrossFit journey, you should talk to a medical professional first. Work alongside them to create a low-impact version of the activity which supports your wellness goals.

3. Builds Muscle in Women

back view of a woman with a very muscular back in a sports bra

One of the most common misconceptions when it comes to CrossFit workouts for women is that they will make you “bulk up”. That’s not the case. While it’s true that this form of exercise does build muscle, the way it works for men and women differs. The widespread idea that women will start to look masculine when they start CrossFit exercises is nothing more than a myth. You won’t end up looking like The Hulk.

However, one of the things you can expect when you start female CrossFit is that you will start to gain muscle in a subtle way. At first, you should notice that your body starts to tone up and look leaner than before. As you go deeper into this world, though, you will likely find that your fat levels decrease and your muscle builds.

What’s more, there’s evidence to suggest that women looking to boost their strength and endurance should do the same activities as men. A study from Ohio University reveals that women should choose “traditional strength training methods”, like those used in CrossFit exercises, if they want to increase their strength.[9] The research compared this method to low-velocity exercises which experts previously prescribed for women.

The takeaway is clear – both women (and men) should undertake the same style of activities to achieve different results. CrossFit workouts for women may differ slightly from those for men but they will still pack the same intensity and build strength.

4. Boosts Metabolism

woman in workout gear doing kettlebell swings

Your metabolic rate is a chemical process that takes place in your body at all times. It is the process of using energy to keep the organs working, repair cells, and digest your food.[10] Keeping your metabolism working well and fast could be the key to weight loss as it helps you to burn calories (i.e. energy) at a high level.

You may not realize it but weight training could affect your hormone levels and, ultimately, your metabolism. Research from the American Physiological Society found that women who engage in a long-term weight training program, such as CrossFit, produce more of “biologically active growth hormone”.[11] This boost allows the body to improve metabolic functions while also building muscle.

Needless to say, this could be one of the biggest benefits of CrossFit for women in particular. Theories about CrossFit weight loss have been rife since the regime became popular. Of course, it’s studies like this one that shed light on how you can slim down while practicing this type of fitness routine.

5. Promotes Healthy Cholesterol

three women in workout clothes kneeling on the floor and laughing

High cholesterol has no symptoms but can lead to a high risk of heart disease and stroke. For that reason, many people don’t realize that they have unhealthy levels of cholesterol until it’s too late. There are more women in the US that suffer from high cholesterol than men. We can break this down further by ethnicity.

According to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in most cases, more women have high levels of cholesterol than men.[12] Here is a breakdown of the percentages of people who suffer from high cholesterol by race and gender:

  • 36% of non-Hispanic black females
  • 32% of non-Hispanic black males
  • 43% of non-Hispanic white females
  • 37% of non-Hispanic white males
  • 40% of non-Hispanic Asian females
  • 39% of non-Hispanic Asian males
  • 41% of Hispanic females
  • 43% of Hispanic males

As you can see, with the exception of the Hispanic ethnicity, there are higher levels of women suffering from this condition than men. That means that the female community must do something to combat this issue sooner rather than later.

CrossFit workouts for women could be the answer. Research from the American Heart Association (AHA) suggests that short bursts of high-intensity training, common in CrossFit, could reduce blood sugar levels and improve cholesterol.[13] Of course, it’s important to work to your own level of fitness and communicate with a trainer or expert when starting out.

Is CrossFit Safe?

All of the above may make this type of exercise sound like the perfect path to fitness. But wait a minute, is CrossFit safe for women? While it’s true that there are many benefits of CrossFit, you should also consider the possible drawbacks of this sport. There is evidence to suggest that, in some cases, this routine could have disadvantages.

1. Impairs the Immune System

a woman in fitness gear lifting a large rubber tire

CrossFit is all about endurance, but the last thing you should do is push yourself too hard. Research published in Frontiers in Physiology suggests that CrossFit-style exercises without adequate rest could impair your immune system.[14] The results found that CrossFit exercises could affect inflammatory proteins and prevent proper immune functions.

The experts concluded that having proper rest periods, i.e. recovery days, was the solution to this problem. When starting CrossFit, it’s crucial that you schedule your time well and allow for down periods in which your body can recuperate.

2. Reduce Fertility

a woman in gym clothes standing with her hands on her hips

As a woman, it’s important to consider the ways in which training may affect your fertility. One study from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) suggests that hard training may lead to a reduction in fertility for women.[15] The in-depth study of 3,000 women found a link between hard physical exercise and low levels of fertility.

Experts believe that the underlying cause of this could be that women expel too much energy during workouts. That means that there is not enough energy left in the body to facilitate hormone functions which contribute to fertility.

However, it’s important to realize that this is not a black and white case. The researchers also noted that other variables, such as age, whether the women smoke, and their BMI, could play a significant role in how fertile they are. They also suggested that women who engage in high levels of activity should take note of their menstrual cycles to ensure that their hormones are working as they should.

3. Risk of Injury

an exhausted woman resting on the floor with a kettlebell in the foreground

When you’re putting your body through strenuous exercises, one of the things that you have to consider is the risk of injury. The truth is that the chances of you getting hurt are high with this type of routine. One review of CrossFit, a survey of participants, found that a massive 74% of people had suffered some sort of injury while training.[16] This percentage highlights the dangers of the sport and begs the question: Is CrossFit safe?

Of course, you should keep in mind that the chances of hurting yourself are typically quite high when you engage in any type of exercise. The key to avoiding this problem is making sure that you’re executing exercises in the proper manner and working to your ability.

4. Muscle Pain and Swelling

a woman squatting and holding a kettlebell weight above her head

CrossFit exercises are far from easy. When you’re pushing yourself hard, you should expect that you will feel the after effects. Research published in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness found that CrossFit participants suffered from muscle pain, soreness, and fatigue in the 48 hours following a session.[17] These symptoms are common and could be more pronounced when you first start out.

Despite the fact that they are hard to handle, you should note that these signs don’t last forever. They are temporary. So long as you’re not pushing yourself too hard and allowing for recovery, you should find that the CrossFit exercises are easy to manage.

5. Physical Exhaustion

a woman in white sports bra leaning forward on a weightlifting bar

We’ve already discussed the fact that rest days are crucial. But is CrossFit safe when you’re constantly working out? The short answer is no. One of the main dangers of taking up this sport is overdoing it. When that happens, it may lead to a case of physical exhaustion. If you don’t recognize this and give your body time to recover, it could have a negative impact on your health and wellness.

Some of the signs of exhaustion include tiredness, irritability, insomnia, weakness, hunger, or even a loss of appetite. It’s vital that you don’t push yourself too far when working out. If you’re worried about this issue, speak to a trainer or a healthcare professional.

Pros and Cons of This Sport

a woman jogging with her silhouette on the wall behind her

CrossFit Pros

If you’re ready to embark on a whole new fitness routine that will test your metal, you might find that CrossFit is the way to go. As we have covered already, here are some of the major benefits of CrossFit that you should keep in mind.

  • Improved strength
  • Weight loss
  • Confidence
  • Extra muscle
  • Endurance
  • Helps symptoms of lymphedema
  • Sense of community
  • Improves cholesterol
  • Boosts metabolism
  • Supports fitness and agility

It’s no real wonder that thousands of people around the world want to give CrossFit a shot. These are just some of the benefits of CrossFit.

CrossFit Cons

As with any exercise routine or sport, you should also consider the possible disadvantages and dangers of CrossFit. With that in mind, here are the safety issues that we’ve explored in this article and things of which you have to be aware.

  • Immunity impairment
  • Lowers fertility
  • Risk of injury
  • Pain and swelling
  • Physical exhaustion

6 Practical Tips to Get Started

a fit woman doing battle rope exercises in a dark gym

Ready to start training? If you’re hoping to give CrossFit a shot, there are a couple of places that you can begin. Here are some ideas:

  1. Join a registered CrossFit gym near you.
    CrossFit is something of a global phenomenon. This means that there are gyms all around the world. Search on the main CrossFit site to find your nearest location.
  2. Make sure you have the right gear.
    When you start training, you will need to have the right workout gear. Getting wrist wraps, compression shorts, goat tape, and the right shoes will help you along the way. You might always want to invest in some chalk which typically makes CrossFit workouts for women easier.
  3. Look for a course in your current gym.
    Sometimes regular gyms will have CrossFit workout classes. If you are already a member of your local gym, you might want to ask them what they have to offer.
  4. Search online for independent trainers.
    If you’re looking to learn about the benefits of CrossFit from a professional, the most effective place to start is with a one-on-one trainer. Search for a qualified trainer online and see what you can find.
  5. Learn about the CrossFit exercises.
    One of the things that many people find when they first start out is that the CrossFit exercises are harder than they expect. Be aware that it will take you quite some time to come around to this type of regime. You can’t expect results overnight but, if you stick at it, you will start to notice a difference.
  6. Do a trial period before paying.
    Not sure if CrossFit is for you? If you’re not 100% certain about this sport, you might want to do a trial first. Taking the time to see if CrossFit workouts for women are right for you is a smart move. Many gyms will allow you to do a free or discounted trial period.

The truth of the matter is that many people find this type of workout extremely intense when they first start out. That’s why you need to have the right support around you. You should never attempt to start CrossFit training without a professional to help you along the way. The only way in which you can reap the benefits of CrossFit is if you have the right guidance.

Before you start training, it’s important that you get the advice and support you need. Qualified trainers and experts can help you along the way when you are working out. You can prevent many of the issues we have highlighted here simply by training within your level and taking the proper precautions.

Top Benefits of Crossfit for Women (and the Risks)

Conclusion

Ready to take your fitness to a whole new level? If you’re hoping to give CrossFit workouts for women a go, there’s no time like the present. Why not search for a gym in your area and sign up? The benefits of CrossFit are plentiful so go ahead and try it.

References

  • [1] https://www.CrossFit.com/what-is-CrossFit
  • [2] http://www.newswise.com/articles/extended-rest-between-weight-lifting-sets-could-help-muscle-growth
  • [3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26360365
  • [4] https://www.CrossFit.com/what-is-CrossFit
  • [5] https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/01490400.2015.1090360
  • [6] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23439334
  • [7] https://www.breastcancer.org/symptoms/understand_bc/statistics
  • [8] https://www.pennmedicine.org/news/news-releases/2009/august/lifting-weights-reduces-lymphe
  • [9] https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/05/080520210700.htm
  • [10] https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-weight/metabolism-and-weight-loss/
  • [11] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16835404
  • [12] https://www.cdc.gov/cholesterol/facts.htm
  • [13]https://newsroom.heart.org/news/short-bursts-of-high-intensity-exercise-does-more-for-type-2-diabetes?preview=b092
  • [14] https://blog.frontiersin.org/2016/09/01/CrossFitters-need-rest-too-study-finds
  • [15] https://www.alphagalileo.org/en-gb/Item-Display/ItemId/62375?returnurl=https://www.alphagalileo.org/en-gb/Item-Display/ItemId/62375
  • [16] https://insights.ovid.com/crossref?an=00124278-900000000-97557
  • [17] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26954573?dopt=Abstract

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