Baylor professors partner with Crossfit to study effects of working out on at risk youth

Members of the Waco Crossfit gym workout at the Crossfit gym on South 8th Street. Lariat File Photo

By Adam Gibson | Assistant News Editor

Baylor professors are teaming up with a local Crossfit coach to build a pilot workout program for young teens in Waco. The program will last 12 weeks and includes high-intensity workouts that will take place at The Cove in Waco and a Mission Waco location.

High school students in Waco ISD will have the opportunity to join this free workout program if they come to The Cove’s after-school program. Other than just working out, the adolescents will also learn about healthy lifestyles that they can implement into the rest of their daily lives.

Dr. Danielle Young, full-time temporary lecturer in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, is one of the professors that will be helping run this program. Young is involved in crossfit and wanted to make an entertaining way for teens to interact with each other and to work out.

“My interest is really in at-risk youth,” Young said. “I was a Young Life leader in college and after college for many years. I also am a psychologist in town and work with a lot of at-risk youth and it just was something that we felt very passionate about. So we have a coach from Crossfit, Coach Katie Mitchell, and another professor, Dr. Annie Ginty and I, all do Crossfit and thought it would be a really fun way to reach teens because the movements are really simple and you can make them as easy or hard as you want to.”

Dr. Annie Ginty, assistant professor of psychology and neuroscience, said she wanted to get involved in this program to give young adults something to do that they may have never experienced before, that could also help them.

“The benefits of physical activity on physical and mental health are well-established. We also know from research that behaviors and activities of adolescents engage in a resustained throughout the life-course,” Ginty said. “The teens in this program will be given an opportunity to engage in private coaching and activities that they may not be able to reduce these barriers and provide the teens with a chance to try something new that can have multiple benefits.”

The Cove, one of the program’s locations, is a nonprofit that targets adolescents from low socioeconomic status backgrounds in WISD who experience homelessness, Young said. By attending this program, at-risk youths will be able to see what all The Cove has to offer them, whether that be feeding them or bringing them together.

“They [The Cove] are not just helping them graduate, they are also providing basic needs like a hot shower, places for them to wash their clothes and also having a hot meal,” Young said. “They do a family dinner every night, so I think this is one way to supplement the good work that The Cove is already doing by bringing them something they don’t have. They don’t have the fitness component yet.”

Ginty also sees The Cove as a blessing for what it offers to adolescents.

“Places like The Cove are amazing in the resources and the support they provide teens,” Ginty said. “We are fortunate to be able to work with them on this project.”

Both Young and Ginty will be researching what effect this 12-week Crossfit program will have on the at-risk youth. Despite the short period of time, Young hopes to get enough results to see the true effect of the workout and expects to see changes in many different aspects in the lives of the participants.

“We hope to see possible changes in depression scores anxiety but also confidence or even just willingness to participate in something new,” Young said.

After the first 12 weeks of the program is over, the trio will look to start the program again next school year, with hopes of having more adolescents involved at the same locations.