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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Psychological Outcomes Associated with CrossFit


CrossFit is an exercise program that was theoretically designed to map onto ancestral forms of exercise and movement. Whether CrossFit actually matches the kinds of movements that were regularly implemented by our pre-Agrarian ancestors is up for debate. Assuming that CrossFit, regardless of its actual evolutionary relevance, may have some benefits, the current work examined whether CrossFit is associated with psychological and social benefits to individuals compared with a more traditional exercise regimen (Gold’s Gym). This study included 188 participants, 69 Gold’s Gym members and 119 CrossFit members who completed an online survey. In addition to several questions about their perceptions of their workout experience, this survey asked them to describe their motivations for exercising. They also completed measures of the Big Five personality traits and several demographic measures (such as an index of socioeconomic status (SES)). Results demonstrated that people who attend the two different gyms do not differ from one another on average in terms of SES or basic personality structure. However, those who attended CrossFit emerged as reporting relatively positively in terms of such outcomes as experiencing challenge, obtaining social recognition, and forming affiliative bonds with others. Findings suggested that CrossFit members show higher levels of intrinsic motivation for their exercise regimen compared with those who attend Gold’s Gym. The implications for designing effective exercise regimens are discussed.

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