How Iron Tide CrossFit’s “BoneFit” has Helped Dozens of Women Reverse Osteoporosis, Osteopenia

February 4, 2024 by
Credit: Iron Tide CrossFit
Enjoying Morning Chalk Up? Access additional exclusive interviews, analyses, and stories with an Rx membership.

Eleven years ago, Dr. Mary Katherine Lawrence decided to try CrossFit as a way to improve her upper body strength.

  • “I was weak. When I would travel, people would rush to help me put my suitcase in the overhead bin,” said Lawrence, an endocrinologist at Carteret Health Care in Morehead City, NC, who largely works with patients with diabetes, thyroid disease, and osteoporosis.

Not only did she feel weak, but Lawrence, now 68,  also had osteoporosis and had watched her bone density decrease for years. 

A year after starting at Iron Tide CrossFit in Morehead City, not only had her upper body strength increased, Lawrence checked her bone density and it, too, had “improved significantly,” she said.

  • “I didn’t do this for my bones, but damn they were getting better,” Lawrence said. “How is that possible for my bones to be getting that much better? But they were.”

As a doctor who works with patients with osteoporosis or osteopenia—meaning those with decreased bone density who aren’t yet osteoporotic—she realized she was onto something.

And so she helped launch “BoneFit” in 2015, a CrossFit class for older adults suffering from osteopenia or osteoporosis who would rather try to improve their bone density through “natural means” than through medication, Lawrence explained. 

Eight years later, BoneFit classes at Iron Tide CrossFit have helped dozens of aging adults improve their bone density, and, in many cases, cure their osteopenia or osteoporosis diagnosis.

  • Ninety percent of the people who have stuck with it see improvements, even those in their 60s and 70s,” Lawrence said. 

The details: There are currently 58 adults enrolled in BoneFit, which focuses heavily on absolute strength and bodyweight strength, and generally 15 to 20 people come to each class, said Iron Tide CrossFit owner Cassidy Morgan.

Most of the attendees are women in their 50s, 60s, and 70s (the oldest being 85), who join “because they want to avoid medication,” Morgan explained.

After some time in the program, though, not only does their bone density and overall health improve, but they also start to make friends in the community. For the coach, there’s nothing more rewarding to watch, Morgan said.

  • “They’re healing their bodies, but they’re also enjoying it…They come to us to improve their bone density, but they end up loving it,” Morgan said, adding that some have also recruited their spouses or friends without a bone density condition. 
  • “They clear their schedules to make sure they can make the class. They’re all in the same stage of life and are working out because they want to — because it’s fun,” Morgan added.

One big thing: Part of the reason BoneFit has grown as big as it has is because of its partnership with the local hospital, which brings referrals into the program and also money. 

BoneFit members pay $65 a month, and the hospital subsidizes another $25 per person. 

Currently, the hospital funds up to 60 members in the program, but Morgan is hoping they will extend this number soon as demand for the program has increased. 

The big picture: BoneFit is the perfect example of how CrossFit can be part of the greater healthcare model. Members are referred to the BoneFit program by Dr. Lawrence, and then Morgan and her team of coaches take these patients under their wing to help improve their health and fitness through appropriate CrossFit workouts.

  • “Endurance, balance, strength, flexibility, everything that CrossFit offers…nothing prepares you like the variety of everything you do with CrossFit,” Lawrence said. 

And nothing improves your life like CrossFit.

  • “Like the woman who was scared to take a bath when she started because she knew she didn’t have the strength to push herself up to get out. But after some time in BoneFit, she could take a bath again,” Lawrence said. 

As for Lawrence’s personal story, she no longer has osteoporosis. 

“And yes I can put that darn suitcase in the overhead compartment and nobody rushes to help me anymore,” she said.

Get the Newsletter

For a daily digest of all things CrossFit. Community, Competitions, Athletes, Tips, Recipes, Deals and more.

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.