Lifestyle

CrossFit and Positive Health

Meyken Houppermans
Founder and Head Coach
CrossFit Eudokia conducted a research into the Positive Health of its community. In this article we present the research results and explain more about the concept of Positive Health. Moreover, we demonstrate how CrossFit can enhance not only the physical, mental and emotional wellbeing of CrossFit members, but also of the social environment of a CrossFit box.

 

CrossFit Eudokia: Well-being, what is good and beneficial

Eudokia stands for ‘well-being; what is good and beneficial to someone and is highly regarded’. CrossFit Eudokia Life Science & Healthy Ageing Academy, and its forerunner Flex Gym Mobile Health & Fitness, is founded from the believe that everyone can live a healthy live, but it is not equally easy for everyone. We are convinced that everyone has the qualities and potential to reach goals and dreams. CrossFit Eudokia is an Academy: We focus on the personal growth of our clients and coach them how unleash their potential and create their own health, fitness, strength and happiness in a way that fits their life. As we say: create your own health.

The concept of Positive Health

Our approach is routed from the concept of Positive Health: a dynamic concept in which taking control over your life and developing the strength and power to improve the quality of life are key. It is about resilience and adaptability to all physical, mental, and emotional challenges life throws at you. In CrossFit we say: be ready to expect the unexpected.

We are convinced that independence is the key to lasting results in health and well-being. Learning how you can live healthy on your own power and develop healthy habits for life, is what we define as Healthy Ageing. It is about maintaining and even increasing work capacity across broad time and modal domains throughout life. That is CrossFit.

The origin of Positive Health

The concept of Positive Health started with a need for action, considering the high costs of medical care and especially of lifestyle diseases. Current health care systems are dominated by care and cure. For future health care systems to be affordable the focus should be on prevention. Prevention means self- management: taking the necessary steps to maintain or improve your health (Huber, 2017).

 A new definition of health

The change of the perspective on health care implies a change of the definition of health. The current definition of health by World Health Organization is: “A state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease, or infirmity.” (WHO, 1948) This implies never- ending treatment, since it is simply impossible to reach a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being. So a lot of care and cure.

In the future perspective on health care self- management is key, and the definition of health should reflect that. Health as the ability to adapt and to self-manage, in the face of social, physical and emotional challenges. That is Positive Health (Huber, 2017).

Ofcourse you can dispute the fact that not everyone in this world is capable or able to adapt of self-manage. True. Other points of critique are the reactive character of this new definition of health or the fact that it does not include the aspect of treatment against diseases (Walburg, 2001). Nevertheless, compared to the current definition of health, the concept of Positive Health considers health a dynamic instead of a static concept. The focus is on prevention and on strengthening self- management capabilities, more than ever before. This is already one step ahead to a healthier and more affordable future.  

The six pillars of Positive Health

Based on extensive research, among which into Blue Zones in this world*, the concept of Positive Health is operationalized in six pillars of health. These six pillars (the spiderweb) can be used for (self-)evaluation, to give insight into aspects of physical, mental, social and emotional health and well-being.

*Blue Zones are areas in the world where people get very old without chronic diseases and mental retardation. These people are experts in self- management by eating well, moving naturally (as we do in CrossFit!), making plans, meeting people, achieving goals etcetera (Huber, 2017).

Needs and assets

The spiderweb also gives insight into needs and assets. A need can be defined as the gap between what is and what should be. A need can be felt by an individual or an entire community. It can be as concrete as the need for food or as abstract as improved community interactions. Examining situations closely helps uncover what is truly needed, and leads toward future improvement. A lower score on one of the six pillars does not necessarily mean this is a need. The person/ community who scores is the one who decides what needs attention, when and how. Assets, or resources, can include anything that can be used to improve the quality of life. Every individual is a potential community asset, and everyone has assets that can be used for community building (Centerfor Community Health and Development).

 

Research into Positive Health of Eudokians

In June 2021 we conducted a short research into the Positive Health of our community. All members of Crossfit Eudokia were invited to fill in a short questionnaire on the six pillars of Positive Health (how would you score this pillar for yourself, on a scale from 1 to 10, 10 being optimal, 5 being neutral). The response rate was over 80%. Additionally, the coaches filled in the questionnaire from the perspective of the community (how do you think our community would score).

After all the data was analyzed, the results were presented and discussed with a focus group of representatives of the community. The goal was to get a better insight and understanding of the data, and to brainstorm about possible follow ups in terms of health and well-being improving- interventions. Key element for the follow up was the insight into possible needs and assets of the community: how can we make use of our assets to enhance our needs?  

The results

Most Eudokians gave the highest scores to the three pillars bodily functions; social/ societal participation; and daily functioning (median 8). Most Eudokians gave the lowest scores to the three pillars quality of life; mental well-being; and meaningfulness (median 7). A score of 4 was the lowest ones given score, and there were several 10’s on several pillars. The overall score was pretty high, most Eudokians consider themselves in good Positive Health. The scores of the coaches, taken from the perspective of the community, were similar.

Needs and assets

The pillar bodily functions received the most scores of 6 or lower, and the least scores of 9 or higher. This topic seems to be a need, as confirmed by the focus group.

The pillar meaningfulness received the least scores of 6 or lower. This pillar seems to be a need as well as an asset: meaningfulness is considered important, but it can be improved. According to the coaches, meaningfulness has the potential to develop. Members seem to feel it is important to reach out to others and to ‘do good’, as also apparent from the positive reactions on the ’non- punishment’ no- show policy: Eudokians who do not show up for a training can get their lost credit back by donating to the CrossFit Eudokia community or to charity, tangible or intangible. This already resulted in amazing positive actions, such as sweet treats during the WOD and donations to several funds such as for conservation of nature and treatment of cancer.

Social/ societal participation received the most scores of 9 or higher. The focus group confirmed the importance of participation as this community’s asset. They noted that participation is an important part of CrossFit, and the strong focus of CrossFit Eudokia’s coaches on community building and participation attracts members who also value that. Striking was the reaction of the focus group on the ones given lowest score of 4: “We as a community need to help this person and not presume everyone is doing fine!”

According to the focus group the asset social/ societal participation can be used to develop the pillar meaningfulness: Participating in activities together can enhance the feeling of meaningfulness. It can also enhance the pillar bodily functions for example by doing more team workouts.

Furthermore, according to the focus group, participation is a key pillar that can enhance all other pillars, especially when the scope of participation concerns CrossFit Eudokia- related activities inside as well as outside the box. The focus group mentioned the interaction between members outside training hours via our community app and activities in and with the neighbourhood.

Summary

To summarize the interesting outcome of this research: The improvement of bodily functions is not only sought in participating in daily WODs, but moreover in investing in meaningfulness and in social participation, in line with the philosophy of Positive Health: what can I do, together with and for others, inside and outside our box? 

Follow up

Crossfit Eudokia has a perfect breeding ground for the concept of Positive Health. And with a strong mindset on community, meaningfulness and social participation so do many other CrossFit affiliates.

Participation and a positive mindset are contagious

The focus group explicitly mentioned the presents of positive thinkers in the community and the strong focus of the coaches on a positive mindset. According to the focus group members are truly committed to the community and many of them notice that by doing CrossFit and learning how to have a positive mindset, they also can improve in other areas in life. As they said: “Participation and a positive mindset are contagious”.

A beautiful and strong quote of our focus group, that covers how CrossFit can enhance the physical, mental and emotional wellbeing of CrossFit members, as well as of the social environment of the box:

“By expanding our community and tightening our social interaction, we can enhance meaningfulness and we can keep our attention and priority on improving our bodily functions, together with others and especially those who need it the most, inside and outside our box and community.”

First CrossFit box accredited as Prevention Center

As a box, we took the next step by becoming the first CrossFit box officially accredited as NLActief* Prevention Center. With that, we are a part of the institutionalized healthcare system in the Netherlands. Next to our specialization in healthy ageing, we also focus on health prevention and treatment of clients with chronic diseases such as obesity; type 2 diabetes; and acquired brain- injury; and ex Covid-19 patients, all via CrossFit and lifestyle coaching. Because CrossFit is and should be accessible foreveryone, regardless of age, impairment or fitness. (* NL Actief is the Dutch professional association for health and fitness.)

Our members are our greatest asset: they are the ambassadors of what CrossFit and a positive mindset can do to health and well-being. In the following months the Eudokian community will, step-by-step, develop plans and execute actions what we can do, together with and for others, to enhance the Positive Health of our community and of our social environment, especially for those who need it the most.

 

References:

Center for Community Health and Development. Community Toolbox. https://ctb.ku.edu/

Huber, Machteld. (23 nov 2017). Positive Health. A new, dynamic concept of health. euPREVENT Congres. https://euprevent.eu/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/2.-Machteld-Huber-Positive-Health.pdf

Walburg, J.A. (2015). Positieve gezondheid: naar een bloeiende samenleving. Houten: Bohn Stafleu van Loghum

World Health Organization (1948). Constitution of the World Health Organization. https://www.who.int/governance/eb/who_constitution_en.pdf