Have you ever wondered if it was safe to continue doing Crossfit into your 50’s? Or maybe you are already in your 50’s and wanting to join a Crossfit box. If you are wondering if Crossfit is safe as you age, then keep on reading!
Let’s start straight away with the important answer – YES! It can certainly be safe to enjoy Crossfit in your 50’s. But you may be concerned about how Crossfit can affect your body. Particularly your low back, knees, and shoulders.
One common myth is that your discs break down as you age which makes Crossfit a bad choice. Let’s break this myth down a little bit. First, the discs act like shock absorbers for our spine. They are able to transfer the force through your spine. The discs also provide all the motion through your spine – and I mean ALL of the motion through your spine.
You may be concerned about the stress put on your discs by high intensity activities such as Crossfit. You may have even heard of people who got a bulging disc from all these high level activities.
But, your body has this magical ability to heal itself. Yes, every tissue in your body was created to heal itself when it is provided with the correct amount of stress and strain. Too much stress/strain leads to break down. Not enough stress/strain and you don’t build up the tissue.
The proper amount of stress and strain on any tissue will allow the tissue to heal and regenerate. This actually makes it stronger than it was before!
So, the answer to the question is: YES! It IS safe to Crossfit into your 50’s and beyond. This is even supported in the research. This article stated that “ideal candidates for Crossfit are adults who seek high-intensity exercise with a wide variety of exercise components”. Does that sound like what you are looking for?
But, you may be concerned because you have heard the horror stories of people who have hurt themselves doing crossfit. Then read on to learn about how you can prevent injuries while enjoying the positive effects of high intensity exercise.
How do you Prevent Yourself From Injury While Enjoying the Benefits of Crossfit?
Find a coach that you can communicate with
(Isn’t this true of everything in your life?) You have to find a coach who gives you the cues that you and your body need to perform the exercises correctly. You may need to have exercises demonstrated to you if you are a visual learner or you may prefer having your coach explain them to you. Or maybe you need all of the above. That’s okay! You do need to find a coach who can meet you where you are and help you get the best out of yourself and your workouts.
Find a Crossfit box that focuses on performing the exercises correctly
You may feel like you are getting a slow start as you teach your body the proper way to do each exercise. No worries! Slow and steady really does win the race as you won’t have to spend weeks recovering from injury. Again, make sure you are in an environment that is more concerned about the way you are doing the exercise.
Give yourself enough time to rest in between sessions
A simple rule to follow – wait until the pain and soreness has worn off. If you go to Crossfit and it takes 48 hours for the soreness to wear off then give your body that time to heal and recover before going back to the box. You will find as you build up your “Crossfit tolerance” you don’t have to wait so long between workouts.
Give your body the resources it needs.
As you increase the intensity of exercise it becomes even more important to ensure that you are properly hydrating, fueling (think food here!), and rest. When you are hydrating drink enough that your pee is clear – and then drink enough to keep it clear. With fueling make sure to consider if you are eating enough protein to build the muscle you are working to gain.
Variety is the spice of life
Make sure you are varying the muscle groups you use during each session. Especially with the smaller muscles including wrist and ankle.
So, why do some people feel it’s unsafe to enjoy Crossfit when they get older?
After age 50, the number one reason I see people avoid activities they want to do is because of pain. The second most common reason is because they were told to.
Let’s start with pain.
Having been a physical therapist for twenty years, I know a thing or two about what goes through people’s minds when they are dealing with joint pain. In most cases, the pain itself is not the biggest concern. People are willing and able to tolerate a certain amount of pain at the expense of doing what they truly love. We do it all the time in our 20’s and 30’s…and don’t think twice about it.
But as we age – a little bit of fear starts to set in when we’re in pain.
We’ve typically seen or heard horror stories from friends or family who have paid the price for either pushing through – or ignoring pain all together. When we’re younger, we’re more likely to approach pain with a “wait and see” approach. But as we age – pain becomes a bigger concern and we’re more likely to seek professional medical help sooner.
This leads me to the second reason people over 50 stop doing Crossfit –
Because they were told to. And often by a well-meaning health care professional.
Let me explain that.
Our medical system is overloaded and everyone does the best they can to keep up. But if you’re a musculoskeletal health professional who’s NOT up with current medical research – you’re likely giving advice based on “old-school” ways of thinking.
For example, diagnosing all musculoskeletal pain based on X-rays and MRI’s. If your X-ray shows “bone on bone” arthritis then a joint replacement is assumed to be your only option. If your MRI shows a meniscus tear or bulging disc – then you automatically need arthroscopic surgery.
But the current research disputes this line of thinking.
And says 80% of ALL musculoskeletal problems – even when you’re over 50 – can be solved without surgeries or procedures.
How your pain behaves is what matters most. Not your age or arthritis. The best way to explain this concept is a case study!
This client (we’ll call her Sally) is 56 years old and was told a lumbar discectomy was her only option to resolve the low back pain she was suddenly experiencing.
When she questioned the discectomy and asked if she could wait, the doctor’s response was that because of her age and the bulge seen on X-ray, surgery was her best option. Otherwise, if she waited, she would need to stop doing Crossfit which was what kept her mentally sane.
Research studies clearly prove that a bulging disc alone on MRI does not mean it’s the cause of your pain.
In other words, it’s entirely possible that Sally’s low back pain could be due to something other than her bulging disc.
Did she really need surgery? And did Sally need to stop Crossfit because of this bulging disc?
Ceasing her activities would have certainly caused Sally’s anxiety to increase which would not have been good for her pain – or overall health. And if she went through with the surgery without being completely sure if the bulging disc was the main cause of her low back pain – she not only risks unnecessary surgery – but also risks getting set back several months for recovery.
This would delay her ability to get back in the box even further.
Although age is most of the time NOT a factor in your choice of exercise…it is a factor when it comes to how quickly you’re able to recover from surgery.
So, here’s what happened.
We prescribed Sally a corrective movement strategy to see of the bulging disc was the main factor causing her low back pain. And just like we see over and over again – her low back pain improved significantly after just a few visits!
If you’re getting older…know that age related changes like disc bulging are quite normal and nothing to be afraid of.
And bulging discs, along with your age, are certainly not reasons to avoid exercise.
Sally was given medical advice to have a surgery she does NOT need yet based solely on her MRI and age. But there are SO many other factors worth considering as well.
If you want more information in this topic then we encourage you to download our free guide. This will get you started with ideas you can implement TODAY to help with your low back pain.
Now, if you are ready to talk with a Low Back Pain Specialist specifically about your issues, then we recommend you sign up for a Free Discovery Visit. This visit is perfect for you if you are wondering what makes us different. Or maybe you have been let down by another provider and are wondering if we can really help you.
During this 20 minute consultation, we will listen to and hear your story. This helps us to learn what you are looking for and how we can best help you. There is No Obligation to continue on with us after this Free Consultation. So, what do you have to lose? Contact us today to sign up for a Free Discovery Visit.