IT is the fitness craze sweeping the globe and now a research program conducted at a Newcastle high school has discovered CrossFit can also be beneficial for growing teenagers.
University of Newcastle physical activity researcher Dr Narelle Eather conducted the world-first study with year 10 students from St Philip’s Christian College at Waratah, discovering that the popular high-intensity exercise regime yielded significant improvements in body composition, aerobic fitness and strength.
CrossFit has polarised opinions among adult gym-goers, some of whom have suffered serious injury from over-exertion. But previously there has been no scientific data available to determine whether it was appropriate exercise for growing adolescents, deterring schools from adding CrossFit to their curriculum.
‘‘We’ve done studies on high-intensity interval training and on resistance training and we know cardiovascular fitness is important for teenagers, but no one had ever combined them all in one project,’’ Dr Eather said.
‘‘CrossFit does that in one quick session. We conducted it twice a week, with 15 minutes of hard work, and achieved huge results.’’
Dr Eather believes CrossFit’s core-strengthening exercises are sound, provided they are taught by experienced instructors. Trainer Jamie Johnson from CrossFit Horizons at Sandgate adapted the St Philip’s course to suit teenagers, using minimal equipment like school bags, garden walls or broomsticks.
Dr Eather said there were no serious injuries suffered to the 96 participants.
‘‘At first the students were complaining about the intensity but by the end they were telling us how much they enjoyed it,’’ Dr Eather said.
Results showed a significant reduction in body fat, with body mass index (BMI) and weight circumference markers improving for girls and boys.
Cardio-respiratory fitness levels rose, most notably among girls, and there was a slight gain in muscular strength. St Philip’s has since adopted the program as a regular sport option and researchers are considering trialling it from Year 7 and following the students progress over a longer period.
Dr Eather is a former national level netball player and a member of the University of Newcastle’s Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition.