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Is Circuit Training Effective for Heart Disease?

A recent study investigated the effectiveness of continuous aerobic training and super circuit training in improving health in patients with heart disease.

Exercise is often recommended by physicians and health care providers as a tool for improving overall health and outcomes in patients with heart disease. Continuous moderate aerobic training (CAT), which includes cycling and walking, has been proven to be an effective strategy for reducing all-cause and cardiac-related mortality. The effectiveness of resistance training, however, has been historically more controversial. It wasn’t until the 1990s that resistance training was proven to confer health benefits including both functional capacity and psychosocial well-being. A novel exercise program, called super circuit training (SCT), which involves resistance training followed by an aerobic exercise interval is commonly utilized by athletes. However, the effectiveness of super circuit training in improving cardiac function and health outcomes in patients with heart disease has not been thoroughly investigated.

A recent study, published in PLoS ONE, investigated the effectiveness of standard continuous aerobic training and standard circuit training in improving cardiac mechanical function and overall health outcomes. Twenty-nine heart attack patients from Israel, aged 47 to 69 years, were included and stratified into the CAT (15 participants) or SCT (14 participants) intervention group.

Super Circuit Training Improved Heart Function

Echocardiography measurements demonstrated significant improvement in heart function in the super circuit training group, but not in the continuous aerobic training group, twelve-weeks after baseline measurements. Furthermore, aerobic capacity and fitness improvements were also only seen in the circuit training group. Although both groups significantly improved their strength performance, the improvement was greater in the circuit training group. During the study period, no adverse events occurred in either group suggesting that both training programs are feasible and safe.

In conclusion, the study found that patients with heart disease may benefit from both continuous aerobic training and super circuit training programs as evident by improved aerobic strength and fitness. However, for the first time, researchers showed that circuit training may yield greater health benefits than standard aerobic training programs. The super circuit training group exhibited significant improvements in their hearts’ mechanical function, a greater improvement in aerobic fitness compared to aerobic group, and an improved quality of life. Moving forward, standard circuit training should be integrated as a non-pharmacological intervention modality in cardiac rehabilitation programs for patients that have suffered from a heart attack.

Written by  Haisam Shah, BSc

Reference: Dor-Haim, H., Barak, S., Horowitz, M., Yaakobi, E., Katzburg, S., Swissa, M., & Lotan, C. (2018). Improvement in cardiac dysfunction with a novel circuit training method combining simultaneous aerobic-resistance exercises. A randomized trial. PloS one13(1), e0188551.

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