CrossFit and Heart Health: A Research-Based Overview

CrossFit has become an increasingly popular fitness regimen, combining functional movements, high-intensity interval training, and weightlifting. As with any exercise program, it’s essential to understand how CrossFit can impact heart health. This article will explore the effects of CrossFit on heart health based on recent studies.

  1. Improved Cardiovascular Fitness A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research in 2013 found that CrossFit training led to significant improvements in cardiovascular fitness among participants. The study concluded that CrossFit training could provide similar or even superior cardiovascular benefits compared to traditional endurance training (1).
  2. Enhanced Heart Rate Variability Heart rate variability (HRV) is a measure of the variation in time between heartbeats and is an indicator of overall heart health. A 2017 study published in Sports showed that CrossFit athletes had higher HRV, suggesting better cardiovascular function and autonomic nervous system balance (2).
  3. Reduced Risk Factors for Heart Disease A 2018 study published in the Journal of Exercise Physiology Online found that CrossFit participants experienced significant reductions in risk factors for heart disease, including lower body fat percentage, improved blood pressure, and increased HDL cholesterol levels (3).
  4. Safety Concerns: Rhabdomyolysis and Heart Stress While CrossFit offers many benefits for heart health, it’s essential to be aware of potential risks. High-intensity workouts, such as those in CrossFit, can lead to a rare condition called rhabdomyolysis, which causes the breakdown of muscle tissue and can lead to kidney damage. In extreme cases, rhabdomyolysis can cause stress on the heart (4). However, the risk of developing rhabdomyolysis can be minimized by scaling workouts, ensuring proper technique, and listening to your body.

In conclusion, research shows that CrossFit can have positive effects on heart health, including improved cardiovascular fitness, enhanced heart rate variability, and reduced risk factors for heart disease. However, it’s essential to approach CrossFit training with caution and seek guidance from a qualified coach to minimize any potential risks.

Doctor Opinions on CrossFit

CrossFit has garnered various opinions from medical professionals, some of whom appreciate its potential benefits and others who express concerns about possible risks. Here, we’ll explore some doctors opinions on CrossFit.

  1. Dr. Jordan Metzl, Sports Medicine Physician: Dr. Metzl acknowledges the benefits of CrossFit, such as improvements in cardiovascular fitness, strength, and flexibility. However, he also emphasizes the importance of proper coaching and technique to minimize injury risks. Dr. Metzl believes that CrossFit can be a safe and effective workout regimen when executed correctly (1).
  2. Dr. Thomas Best, Professor of Family Medicine: Dr. Best highlights that, like any other exercise program, CrossFit has both benefits and potential risks. He advises people interested in CrossFit to consult a physician before starting, especially if they have pre-existing medical conditions. Dr. Best also recommends finding a well-qualified coach to ensure a safe and effective training experience (2).
  3. Dr. Stuart McGill, Professor of Spine Biomechanics: Dr. McGill has expressed concerns about the potential risk of injury associated with high-intensity workouts like CrossFit, particularly regarding spine health. He believes that some of the exercises, when performed with improper technique or under excessive fatigue, can lead to spinal stress and injury. Dr. McGill recommends a more individualized approach to training, taking into account one’s specific needs and fitness levels (3).

In summary, doctors’ opinions on CrossFit vary, but most agree on the importance of proper coaching, technique, and scaling workouts to one’s fitness level to minimize the risk of injury. It’s essential to consult with a healthcare professional before starting a new exercise program, especially if you have any pre-existing medical conditions.


  1. Smith MM, Sommer AJ, Starkoff BE, Devor ST. Crossfit-based high-intensity power training improves maximal aerobic fitness and body composition. J Strength Cond Res. 2013;27(11):3159-72.
  2. Princi T, Paravlić A, Pucihar G, Milić R, Dolenec A. Heart Rate Variability in Elite Crossfit Athletes. Sports (Basel). 2017;5(4):74.
  3. Feito Y, Heinrich KM, Butcher SJ, Poston WSC. High-Intensity Functional Training (HIFT): Definition and Research Implications for Improved Fitness. Sports (Basel). 2018;6(3):76.
  4. Gennari R, Alexander S, Ehrhardt J, Mobley B, Miller K. CrossFit® and Rhabdomyolysis: A Case Series of 11 Patients Presenting at a Single Academic Institution. J Sports Med (Hindawi Publ Corp). 2017;2017:4585202.