Circuit Training With Arthritis

Circuit training offers big benefits in little time and can be done safely with arthritis. Here's what you need to know to get started.

By Camille Noe Pagán

You don’t have the energy or time to exercise. You get bored easily. You’re tired of seeing minimal results from your workouts. If any of this sounds familiar, it’s time to try circuit training.

A series of exercises done one after another, circuit training builds muscle while providing cardiovascular benefits, too. Even better? A typical circuit training workout takes a fraction of the time of most workouts. And it’s safe for people with arthritis, says Julia Valentour, a kinesiologist, fitness trainer and program coordinator for the American Council on Exercise.

“The great thing about circuit training is that you can tailor the exercises and exertion to your ability level,” says Valentour. Ready to give it a go? Here’s what you need to know about circuit training safely with arthritis.

Circuit Training 101

• Do 10 to 15 “stations," or exercises, which can be all strength moves or a combination of strength moves and cardio. Depending on your fitness level, do 8 to 10 reps at one station (it should take you about 60 to 90 seconds per exercise), then move on to the next. Do the entire circuit one time.

“Ideally, you’ll start with exercises that train the larger muscle groups, like the chest and back, and end with exercises that target smaller muscles, such as the biceps and triceps,” says Wayne Wescott, PhD, fitness research director at Quincy College in Quincy, Massachusetts.

• Use slightly lighter weights than you normally would – for example, 8-pound dumbbells instead of 10 for chest presses – so you’re able to complete the whole circuit.

• Rest 15 to 60 seconds between exercises, depending on how you feel. If you’re just starting out, it’s OK to take longer breaks, says Westcott: “You don’t have to train to the point of exhaustion to see benefits.”

• Wait at least one day before doing another circuit routine. Don’t do circuit training more than two to three times a week.

• Remember it’s OK to skip a move if it hurts your joints. “You won’t ruin the workout by omitting one exercise,” says Westcott. “Talk to a trainer, physical therapist and/or doctor to see if there’s another non-painful move that will target the same muscle group.” And always get your doctor’s OK before starting a new workout program. 

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