Setting the Standard: Redefining Wellness in the Digital Era

In today’s digital age, where adults spend 44% of their waking hours on screens, the need for digital media literacy—like healthy screen habits and critical content analysis—is key. This heavy screen use, coupled with phone addiction leading to over two months annually spent on devices, significantly impacts physical activity and overall well-being. Excessive screen time is linked to weight gain, poor sleep, body image issues, and mental health struggles, competing directly with opportunities for physical activity.

To address these challenges, it’s vital for CrossFit Level 1 training and affiliates to promote digital media literacy. This ensures CrossFitters have the tools to manage screen time and promote better health outcomes.

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In the CrossFit community, where wellness is widely promoted on Instagram and YouTube, digital media literacy might seem unexpected. However, improving screen habits is crucial for maintaining the healthy lifestyle CrossFit enthusiasts pursue. This idea fits well with the core principles of CrossFit Level 1 training, which stress nutrition and basic fitness concepts. Too much screen time can lead to poor eating and training habits by reducing self-control, which can undermine fitness goals and hinder the development of essential physical skills.

Research links high screen time to obesity, metabolic syndrome, and other health issues. Educating CrossFitters about the negative effects of prolonged screen use helps trainers provide strategies for cutting back on screen time. This balanced approach helps individuals better manage their screen use and physical activity, leading to improved overall health.

CrossFit affiliates wouldn’t be fulfilling their responsibilities if they solely concentrated on their athletes during gym sessions. We’ve already observed this approach with nutrition and physical recovery education. So, why would we overlook one of the most significant challenges to our health in this era—smartphones? Data reveals that screens are increasingly dominating our lives, with people spending over 6 hours daily on phones and tablets (refer to the figure below).

It’s crucial to note that not all screen time is detrimental. Research indicates that spending less than two hours a day on screen-based activities, particularly on phones, generally doesn’t lead to significant health issues. However, once screen time exceeds two hours a day, both mental and physical health can start to decline. Furthermore, the nature of screen activities matters; engaging in educational content on platforms like YouTube differs greatly from mindlessly scrolling through social media, which can be highly addictive.

Digital media literacy, therefore, should also focus on social media use, especially considering its addictive nature. This is particularly important for young CrossFit athletes in light of the ongoing national youth mental health crisis and the incomplete understanding of social media’s impact on mental health, especially for children and adolescents (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2024).

The American Academy of Family Physicians notes that while social media can foster connection, it can also increase feelings of depression and anxiety, especially among teenagers. Therefore, it’s crucial for health experts, such as CrossFit coaches, to provide young people and their families with the tools to manage social media’s risks and promote a healthy, balanced lifestyle.

CrossFit occupies a significant position in healthcare knowledge and innovation, yet it has not taken proactive steps to address digital and social media health threats, such as through initiatives like CrossFit Health. However, independent researchers have taken note of the growing concerns regarding the impact of digital media on health and the positive effect CrossFit can have in this struggle. Research has demonstrated that female athletes involved in CrossFit are shielded from the negative body image often associated with social media use (Gipson et al., 2022).

Furthermore, social media serves as a platform for information exchange and interaction, which is particularly relevant for a niche sport during its growth phase. Although promotion via social media is currently less emphasized, it may gain more traction as the CrossFit community expands (Kang et al., 2019). These findings underscore the importance for CrossFit and its affiliates to proactively address digital and social media health concerns, using their influence to encourage positive health behaviors among their members.

As CrossFit continues to expand as a sport, community, and lifestyle, there is a pressing need for further research, especially concerning digital and social media. With growth comes increased responsibilities, particularly in managing digital platforms, primarily social media. It’s essential to avoid creating addictive digital environments that encourage sedentary behaviors, such as prolonged scrolling on a couch. Succumbing to these practices would make CrossFit just as culpable as any other harmful company.

If we think sugar is addictive, the challenge of limiting screen time can be even more daunting. Therefore, it’s imperative to conduct more research, develop responsible digital strategies, and promote healthy screen habits through CrossFit education to safeguard the well-being of CrossFit members and the broader community.

As a final note, I invite you to reflect on the time you have ahead. A thought-provoking exercise from Project Reboot offers a glimpse into the future. Consider an 18-year-old who lives to be 90. How do they spend their time in the remaining 865 months of their life?

Out of 228 months, they’ll spend sleeping, 126 months on school and work, 36 months cooking and eating, 18 months driving, 36 months on chores/errands, and 27 months in the bathroom. This leaves them with 334 months of free time for the rest of their life.

Of these 334 months of free time, about 312 months are dedicated to screen time, leaving a mere 22 months for everything else.

So, as part of the CrossFit community, how do we choose to utilize these 334 months of free time? Are we investing them in front of screens, or are we actively engaging in new sports and continuous learning?

More importantly, what steps will we take as a community to confront these digital health trends and establish a new standard for wellness in the digital era?

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