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Does Curves for Women Burn Enough Calories?

Hydraulic circuit training for women has exploded on the marketplace. Originally circuit training was designed for strengthening, do these women exercisers burn off sufficient calories per session to make a difference? A recent study shares some numbers.

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The explosion in popularity of hydraulic circuit training, especially for women, may be accountable to its doubling up on the effort. That is, in addition to increasing (fat burning) lean muscle mass, the exerciser is also going at a brisk pace to burn off calories in the process. But the question is, how many calories?

According to John Porcari, an exercise and sport science professor at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse in a recent study conducted on behalf of ACE, the typical Curves for Women workout burned off about as many calories as in half a Krispy Kreme. It begs the question is the Curves workout too wimpy, or is that doughnut just loaded with too many calories.

"I'd rather see people alternate Curves with higher-intensity cardio, like brisk walking, two to three days a week,"…
    -- John Porcari, Exercise and Sport Science Professor, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse

Circuit Training
Strictly defined, circuit training can consist of a mix of stations. However, a recent study measured the caloric expenditure for Curves circuits.

The study monitored 15 healthy women aged 25 to 56 through two Curves workouts. It concluded that each circuit training session burned an average of 184 calories. The most calories burned by a study participant was 233, the low 150. A 30-minute hatha yoga session burns around 80 calories, moderate spin cycling about 225.

The Curves burn is equivalent to walking 30 minutes at about 3.5 miles per hour on a flat treadmill and meets the government minimum recommendation of 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days.

Below is a comparison table derived by FitCommerce from multiple sources:

30 Min. Activity Calories Burned in 30 Min. for 130 lb. person
Hydraulic Circuit Train.
Hatha Yoga
Walking @ 3.5 mph
Free Weight Lifting
Group Cycling
slow freestyle swimming
Fast Ballroom Dancing

Curves gyms are no-frills, women-only facilities usually with 12 hydraulic resistance machines and recovery boards between stations. Most women do a 25-minute session comprising two full circuits of resistance training interspersed with walking or jogging in place on the special recovery boards. Lately it's been followed by five minutes of stretching.

Porcari said most study participants reached a level of exertion slightly above the minimum threshold for improving aerobic capacity. Heart rates hit a high average of 75% of age-adjusted maximum, within guidelines for a moderate-intensity workout.

Additional Exercise Is Necessary in The Week

"I'd rather see people alternate Curves with higher-intensity cardio, like brisk walking, two to three days a week," Porcari told the Washington Post, "That's proven to be better for lowering cholesterol, improving circulation and a lot of other benefits." But he said Curves offers a better full-body workout than walking.

ACE's chief exercise physiologist, Cedric X. Bryant, told the Post that healthy women with no current or past weight issues seeking to maintain baseline fitness could stick with Curves for years. "But if you're looking for weight loss or improved [athletic] performance, you will want to do more than just the Curves workout."

Intensity is Key

Bryant and Porcari said intensity is key. "With hydraulic machines your exertion is proportional to your effort," Bryant said. "You could just go through the motions without using too much energy."

Curves International issued a statement saying it is "pleased that an independent body has tested our program and found that it does indeed provide the health benefits" of aerobic exercise and strength training.

Posted: 08/12/2005

Source: John Briley Washington Post

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