Physical Activity, Exercise Physiology, Movement
Leveraging intersection of military and CrossFit cultural narratives to improve well-being of transitioning wounded veterans
(School of Public Health (UMD) Kinesiology Master's Student)
Transition from active duty to civilian life places extreme stress on veterans, which is amplified in injured veterans, as many as 50.2% of whom, enrolled in the VA healthcare system, experience symptoms of PTSD including depression and anxiety. Research indicates people diagnosed with depression and anxiety who exercise two times per week experienced significantly fewer symptoms and that the sense of belonging and group cohesion is protective against depression in service members. Studies looking at use of sport to aid in recovery of wounded veterans focus on sport opportunities provided away from the veteran’s home of residence and do not include development of long term group cohesion. CrossFit claims over 13,000 gym affiliates worldwide that provide a cohesive fitness community locally and globally, but has not been studied as a site of recovery or transition for veterans. This study uses narrative inquiry to compare the cultural narratives of CrossFit and the military. We examined the journals of five injured veterans enrolled in a 6-month CrossFit program. Wounded veterans participating in this study reported increased quality of life, reduced anxiety, and increased sense of community as well as broader personal definitions of community. We found fitness and physical activity can be a tool to aid in military transition if the fitness culture is compatible with the military identity.