Circuit Training and Perception of Time
by Gretchen M. Ashton, CFT, SFT, SFN, SSC, NBFE,
PAC Certified Independent Consultant
Exercise is proven to increase longevity, prevent illness and disease, and improve quality of life. The best results are discovered in a lifestyle of daily exercise and healthy nutrition. Sometimes, it is challenging to find the time to do what we need to do to extend our time on this Earth. Especially when we are also responsible for the health, fitness, and wellness of people living with dementia (PLwD). Circuit training is a great way to efficiently fit exercise into the day for PLwD and the care team. Depending on the progression of dementia, circuit training might be performed independently, with care partners, or with fitness professionals to provide a respite for family care providers.
Most circuit training workouts are completed in less than an hour and consist of at least six exercises with short rests or stretches between exercises at the completion of each circuit. It is possible to exercise every muscle in the body with just six exercises in 20 minutes. This is ideal for a daily fitness routine. More complex programs tailored to the health, ability, and goals of the client might include as many as a couple dozen different exercises that alternate from day-to-day. Exercises need to be appropriate for each client using a variety of machines, free weights, cables, and equipment. Counting repetitions of each exercise is an excellent way to maintain brain health in combination with physical movements that reinforce the ability for mind and body. Repetitions begin in a range of 12 to 15 for each movement with moderate weight. As the participant gets stronger the weight might be increased. Another way to progress circuit training is to master one circuit of 20-minutes, then repeat it.
Circuit training can also be used to reinforce concepts of time, including how time feels. It’s easy and motivating to incorporate perception of time into a circuit training workout.
Circuit 1: Using a stopwatch, track the time required to complete a full circuit counting repetitions throughout. Do not look at the timer while exercising. Take a short three-minute rest. How many minutes did it take to complete Circuit 1? If the circuit training is being led by an instructor or activities director, it is fun to time the first circuit without telling the participant(s).
Circuit 2: Repeat the circuit, again tracking the time without looking at the stopwatch, counting repetitions, and working to complete the same exercises in less time. Be sure to always use proper form and safely use equipment when increasing the pace of the workout. How did it go? Simply by being mindful of time, Circuit 2 probably took less time.
Circuit 3: Now, set the timer again without watching it during the workout, while still counting repetitions, and with a goal of completing the circuit once more in even less time than the second round. You will most likely work a bit harder and still be happily surprised. Is Circuit 3 your fastest round? Even better, you will have completed three circuits in less than an hour.
This type of exercise improves both cardiovascular fitness and muscle strength, typically without requiring more than a day of recovery. It is best to have a good understanding of exercise equipment, know how to adjust it to fit the body for safe and proper form, and to be able to move from one exercise to the next in about 15 seconds. Of course, pacing this routine for PLwD might mean adjusting equipment for them, moving slower, and timing just one round each day while still working toward a goal to complete it a bit faster. Simply adding repetitions and more weight are good goals too. Timing each exercise for one-minute is another great way to incorporate perception of time into circuit training that works well for PLwD.
As always, all the positives of circuit training, including the perception of time, transfer to other aspects of life and care.