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Take a Shortcut to Fitness With Circuit Training

Get strength and cardio benefits in 30 minutes a day

Is Circuit Training Enough?

According to Westcott, a circuit workout improves both strength and endurance, and jump-starts metabolism.

"When those women leave the gym, they are still burning a third more calories than they did in the workout -- and this goes on for hours!" he says. "Once you build muscle, muscle burns more calories [than fat], so you continue to burn more."

Although weight training has traditionally been a male pastime (think Ah-nold), it's important for women, who tend to lose muscle mass at the rate of 1% per year in their late 30s and 40s. This muscle often gets replaced by fat. But you need muscles to cushion joints and help protect against osteoporosis, among other benefits. That's not to mention the trimmer, tighter appearance you'll gain by toning up.

Circuit training works because it's short and sweet and people actually do it. (Many gyms, as well as a chain called Health Inspirations, offer circuit training to both sexes.) "It's brief, it's basic, it's consistent; no frills, over quickly" is how Westcott puts it.

Is Circuit Training Enough?

But is a 30-minute workout enough? "I hate that question," says Cedric X. Bryant, PhD, chief exercise physiologist of the American Council on Exercise in San Diego. "Speaking purely scientifically, 30 minutes is probably not enough to maintain normal weight over a lifetime."

The Institute of Medicine recently recommended an hour of exercise a day.

"However," Bryant continues, "this [circuit] is often done by people who weren't exercising before." And he sees why many people are drawn to Curves in particular. "The environment is conducive to comfort -- there is no intimidation factor," he says. "You are not surrounded by so-called beautiful people and figure you're so far from the norm, why bother?"

Even if your circuit workouts include jogging intervals, Bryant recommends adding some brisk walking or other aerobic activity to your day. "Do things you enjoy!" he urges.

Circuit Training at Home

If driving to the gym (much less working out in front of God and everybody) is a deterrent, Westcott recommends setting up a modified circuit at home. This way, you can also tailor your circuit to your fitness level. Beginners, for example, might use 5-pound weights and move up as their strength improves.

Your home circuit could go like this:

  • 30 seconds of squats
  • 30 seconds on a stationary bike, or jogging in place or on a treadmill

 

  • 30 seconds of lunges (watch those knees!)
  • 30 seconds of cycling or jogging

 

 

  • 30 seconds of chest presses on a weight bench or sturdy table
  • 30 seconds of cycling or jogging

 

 

  • 30 seconds of bent-over rows on a weight bench or sturdy table
  • 30 seconds of cycling or jogging

 

 

  • 30 seconds of shoulder presses (push your arms straight overhead with palms facing out)
  • 30 seconds of cycling or jogging

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