CrossFit can help you live longer, feel stronger, and enjoy exercise. Now more than ever, seniors are discovering what CrossFit can do for their health and happiness.
So, what is CrossFit, and how can we make it more accessible to an older crowd?
What is CrossFit?
CrossFit combines nutrition and exercise to encourage a stronger, healthier lifestyle.
Muscles naturally weaken with age, which leads to joint instability and fall risks. CrossFit allows you to retain muscle and stay active, while having the freedom to decide your own routine. Every workout can be specifically customized to your needs, so you can enjoy the benefits of exercise without pain or overexertion.
You can shelve high impact workouts like running, which adds wear and tear to aging joints. Repetitive motion workouts that increase inflammation and arthritis can also be replaced, leaving you with a low impact, strength-building CrossFit routine.
Instead of damaging worn joints and increasing your chances of osteoarthritis with normal workouts, you can build up your overall strength and flexibility.
Can Seniors really do CrossFit?
Absolutely! This exercise craze may seem driven by younger people, but more and more seniors are adopting these exercises to improve their health and strength.
At a glance, you might notice that certain workouts might not fit your needs. Luckily, CrossFit is a versatile regimen that allows you to pick and choose exercises that benefit you.
Instead of retiring from working out entirely, you can retire specific workouts that no longer feel comfortable or safe. From there, you can replace them with gentler exercises that mimic the moves you make every day. This will increase your strength and mobility in a functional way, improving your daily life.
Key Benefits of CrossFit
CrossFit comes with many benefits — one of which being a community. People of all ages and backgrounds join the CrossFit community to become happier, healthier versions of themselves, and you’ll find plenty of support among them. Along with advice and encouragement, CrossFit also comes with health benefits:
- Longevity. People who stay active typically live longer than those who become sedentary in their old age.
- Reduced healthcare costs. Regular exercise can prevent falls, along with both communicable and noncommunicable illnesses.
- Less chance of stroke. One study reports that people who became fit later in life cut their chances of a deadly stroke by half.
- Maintain mental function. Working out also requires brain-power, which helps keep your mind sharp.
- Accelerate weight loss: CrossFit can burn more calories than a cardio workout, making it a great way to stay fit and shed extra pounds.
- Improve your balance. Working out regularly stabilizes you and helps you become more steady on your feet.
- Reduce inflammation. Inflammatory illnesses like arthritis tend to worsen when you’re immobile, so it’s important to gently exercise problem areas and prevent stiffness.
Popular CrossFit Exercises for Seniors
The great thing about CrossFit is that every exercise can be “scaled” up or down to fit your current fitness level. Here are some of the most popular CrossFit exercises for seniors.
The deadlift is a simple strengthening exercise that can be easily modified for seniors and people without weight equipment.
- Stand with your feet midway under the barbell, and make sure to keep a steady stance.
- While keeping your back “neutral”, bend your knees and grab the bar with a shoulder-width grip.
- Take a breath, set your shoulders back, and stand up. Lock your hips and knees as you do this.
- Engage your hips, moving them back as you bend your legs and return the barbell to the floor.
- If you’re feeling up to it, repeat the exercise a few more times.
Tip: Remember not to round your back. Keeping your back straight will help you prevent injury. If you don’t have access to barbells, try this modified senior deadlift!
A Burpee can take many forms, but the basic idea is always the same. Burpees involve going from a prone position to a standing position as quickly and effectively as possible. For seniors, this may mean a controlled pattern of movement similar to the following:
- Carefully drop to one knee.
- Kneel on both knees.
- Lean forward and place both hands on the floor.
- One at a time, stretch both legs back.
- Lower your face and lie down flat. (If you’re feeling overwhelmed, take this moment to rest before continuing the exercise.)
- Push yourself up with your hands.
- Slide one knee up, followed by the other.
- Rise up onto your knees.
- Slide one foot up and return to the first position.
- Stand up!
- (Optional) Repeat the exercise.
Tip: If your knees protest kneeling, don’t be afraid to use knee pads. Over time, you can slowly increase the speed of your burpees, but you should always avoid rushing yourself.
Snatches and Thrusters
The snatch is a favorite among weightlifters. This move allows them to show off their abilities by popping a barbell to knee height, pumping it up to their chest, and then thrusting it overhead.
A senior-friendly version can be done with a broomstick instead of a barbell:
- Stand up straight with your feet spaced.
- Hold the broom handle in front of you at waist height, with your hands a hip-span apart.
- Keeping your back as straight as possible, squat just far enough for the broom handle to drop below knee height.
- Straighten up, while lifting the broom handle back to waist height.
- Continue the upwards motion and raise the broom to chest height.
- Without stopping, raise the broom overhead.
- Lower the broom handle back to chest height, then to your waist.
- Repeat ten to twenty times.
Thrusters typically involve squatting all the way down with the barbell held at collarbone level, , then swiftly standing and thrusting the barbell up overhead. For seniors without the muscle mass for serious weightlifting, a modified version can be done as a sit to-stand exercise:
- Sit close to the edge of a chair.
- Bend your elbows and raise your hands to shoulder level, keeping your palms facing out.
- Stand up in one motion, raising your hands over your head.
- Lower your hands and resume sitting position as smoothly as possible.
- Repeat ten to twenty times.
Tip: You can combine snatches and thrusters in one workout by doing sets of five in an alternating pattern.
The kettlebell swing is an excellent workout that engages your entire body. On top of that, it’s just fun to do! If you don’t have a kettlebell, you can use a sealed jug of water — much like the modified deadlift.
- Stand over the kettlebell. Your feet should be a hip-width apart, and your back should be straight.
- Squat carefully and grab the kettlebell. Make sure your palms are facing towards you.
- Push your butt out behind you, bend your knees, and stand up.
- Swing the kettlebell back and forth between your legs. You should try and raise it to chest-height with every forward swing. Make sure to keep your back straight!
- Repeat until you need a break.
The great part about CrossFit is its accessibility. With the help of a friend or caretaker, you can modify exercises to accommodate for your needs. If something seems too intense or difficult, you can shelve it or discuss an alternative option. As you improve, you can also replace exercises or increase their difficulty.
It’s never too late to begin improving your health. In fact, you should begin taking your health seriously as you age, especially when it comes to exercise.
If you’re interested in learning more about senior wellness, there’s a lot to learn. My Take On Health is constantly expanding its library, and we aim to provide knowledge on fitness, dieting, and general health. Explore our current archives, and stay tuned for more articles.