To read the full version of this content please select one of the options below:

Can CrossFit aid in addiction recovery? An exploratory media analysis of popular press

Shelby C. Lautner (Texas A&M University System, College Station, Texas, USA)
Megan S. Patterson (Department of Health and Kinesiology, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas, USA)
Melitza Ramirez (Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas, USA)
Katie Heinrich (Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas, USA)

Mental Health and Social Inclusion

ISSN: 2042-8308

Article publication date: 29 April 2020

Issue publication date: 28 May 2020




CrossFit has been popularized for the high intensity workouts it provides and the sense of community it facilitates; however, its potential as an adjunctive treatment for addiction is unknown, as is has not been published in traditional peer-reviewed literature. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to determine the potential for CrossFit to benefit individuals in addiction recovery.


A search was conducted using the search terms “CrossFit,” “addiction” and “addiction recovery.” A tool was created to categorize key information within articles such as type(s) of addiction described, mention of support/community, main narrative type (personal story, information about a treatment centers, etc.), mental health described as a comorbidity, and if the exercise program(s) was(were) used to prevent, sustain or support recovery.


Nearly half of the articles reviewed (48 per cent) described personal stories related to using CrossFit as a means to overcome addiction, and 26 per cent were about CrossFit gyms targeting addiction recovery. A key finding was that 62 per cent of all articles mentioned the community and social component of CrossFit as an important mechanism of the recovery process. Finally, 33 per cent of articles recognized mental health as a comorbidity to addiction and therefore also proposed CrossFit as a suitable way to improve mental health.

Research limitations/implications

Although this was a review of gray literature, the findings reveal how CrossFit may be an innovative approach for supporting addiction recovery.

Practical implications

The potential benefits identified in the articles demonstrate the positive impact that CrossFit may have on recovering addicts. Empirical research is needed to objectively study the impact of key aspects that CrossFit can provide to individuals overcoming addiction.


This study provides an example of how anecdotal evidence of addiction recovery can be used for analysis, thus providing a strategy to be implemented in addiction treatment facilities. CrossFit has been widely popularized by the fitness community, but the social support and exercise it provides may be a leverage point for supporting individuals in recovery.



Lautner, S.C., Patterson, M.S., Ramirez, M. and Heinrich, K. (2020), "Can CrossFit aid in addiction recovery? An exploratory media analysis of popular press", Mental Health and Social Inclusion, Vol. 24 No. 2, pp. 97-104.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited

Related articles