Data Supporting the Hypothesis

Of the exercise programs that utilize high intensity interval training as the primary mode of exercise, the one with the greatest number of participants is known as CrossFit.  In early 2015, CrossFit announced that over 1,000,000 people worldwide had taken up CrossFit.  CrossFit is based on one-hour classes.  The core of each class is a relatively short (typically from about 5 minutes to 15 minutes in duration) Workout of the Day (WOD) where participants are required to perform either as many repetitions of one or more exercises within a specified period of time, or perform a specific number of repetitions of one or more exercises as quickly as possible.  In any event, the effect of performing a WOD is that the participant engages in exercise of an intensity that takes him or her well beyond the lactate threshold, thus activating the Growth Process.


Each year, CrossFit holds a series of competitions designed to identify the “Fittest Man (and Woman) on Earth.”  The first phase of the competition is known as the Open.  The Open is, as its name implies, open to anybody in the world who is willing to put up $20 and register online.  In 2015, over 277,000 people registered for the Open.  The Open consists of a series of five WODs over a period of five weeks.  All participants are required to perform the WOD in front of a judge, have their score certified, and submit their scores online within a four-day period following the announcement of the WOD.


The Open has Masters divisions that are based on age.  Each Masters division is a five-year grouping, starting at the age 40-44 bracket and continuing up until the over-60 bracket.  Everyone does the same WOD, with the exception being that those over age 55 frequently are given slightly less loads on lifting exercises or are required to do only chin over bar, rather than chest to bar, pull ups.  Reference is made to the CrossFit website for further information regarding the Open.  The Open was not designed to be a formal study of the long-term effects of activating the Growth Process on the functionality of the skeletal muscle system of older people.  Nonetheless, the Open has produced some very rich data that is quite reliable.  


The data is publicly available to anyone who accesses the CrossFit Open website.  There are detailed explanations of each of the exercises involved in each of the WODs.  The number of repititions of exercise successfully performed by each of the hundreds of thousands of participants is also included in the "Leaderboard."  Since the data is readily available, this paper will not attempt a detailed analysis, but will make some conclusory observations.  First, there are thousands of participants in the 50-59 year old divisions, and hundreds of participants in the over 60-year old division, who are performing at levels that would be impossible for 20-30 year olds who are not trained athletes.


The functionality of the skeletal muscle systems of a large group of 60-year olds who have engaged in intense exercise for an extended period of time (well over 500 of the over-60 participants in the 2016 Open fit in this category), is superior to that of a 30-year old who has not done equivalent training.  The reader can quibble that an athletic competition is not an RCT, or maybe these 60+-year olds are genetically gifted or have a special diet or there is some other reason that they can substantially outperform a typical 30-year old.  Many of those arguments are refuted by the following observation -- the absolute performance of each age group in the Masters divisions improves significantly on a year-to-year basis.  Under all prevailing hypotheses relating to aging, year-to-year athletic performance of a large cohort of over 60-year-old men and women should not improve significantly from year to year.


The founder’s personal experience helps illustrate this point.  He began CrossFit as a 59-year old.  He hoped to perform well during the Open the following year when he would be participating in the over 60 year old group.  Based on the presumption that there would not be a significant year-to-year improvement in the group’s absolute performance, he assumed that if his performance improved significantly from year to year, he could predict an improvement in his relative placement with some degree of confidence.  But it didn’t turn out that way.  Although the founder substantially improved his strength and mobility and became more adept at the exercises, others who were engaged in the same type of training improved as much or more.  And that pattern has repeated each subsequent year.  Each year the founder’s personal absolute performance improves, but his placement declines each year.  It turns out that age is not a factor.  Natural ability (genetic potential) together with the amount and quality of training are the critical factors.


This data relates only to increasing the functionality of the skeletal muscle system of older people. How does it tend to show that the Growth Process has been activated and that FDS as a whole has been reversed?  The same stimulus that achieved that end (intense exercise that raised blood levels of Complex X) activates the entirety of the Growth Process in younger people.  We also know that increases in muscle mass are impossible unless one’s endocrine system (pituitary gland and the producers of steroids, etc.) is fully functional.  The over-60 year olds that are involved in CrossFit are activating a Growth Process that involves all of the chemicals and substances that are necessary to increase muscle mass and make the skeletal muscle system function better.  It logically follows that all of the other chemicals and substances that are activated by the Growth Process in younger persons would also come into play. 


In other words, the Hypothesis predicts that just as the 60+ year olds who have engaged in CrossFit training for a number of years generally outperform 30 year-olds who have not engaged in similar training from a skeletal muscle functioning standpoint, they also generally outperform untrained 30-year olds in all other health-related modalities.