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Fitness Multi-Tasking

With the holidays here, it can be difficult to fit both strength and cardiovascular exercise into a workout regimen.

Andy Fry, a fitness expert in Indiana University Bloomington's School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation, has a suggestion: Try circuit training.

Circuit training is a type of interval workout that combines endurance and aerobic exercises to create a full-body workout that usually lasts 30 minutes.

"Circuit training usually consists of eight to 10 exercises, with minimal rest in-between," said Fry. "The idea is to keep your heart-rate elevated the entire time, fatiguing one muscle before moving on to the next." 

A circuit training session could consist of short intervals on a stationary bike or treadmill with strength exercises such as lunges or bicep curls in-between. One could also create eight to 10 different "stations" with exercises such as pushups, jumping jacks or free weights. Spend one to two minutes at each station, with minimal breaks in-between. Complete the circuit two or three times.

Circuit training is a time saver. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends doing moderately intense cardio 30 minutes a day, five days a week and eight to 10 strength-training exercises twice a week. "When you combine strength and cardio into one circuit training workout, you get two workouts for the price of one," said Fry.

Anyone can circuit train. "The great thing about circuit training is that anyone can do it," said Fry. "Circuit training is easy to modify, so it's good for everyone, even an elite athlete." Fry suggests varying weight and intensity so that you stay challenged.

Your body (and mind) is constantly being challenged. Since circuit training involves a variety of exercises, all working different muscle groups, the body is less inclined to adapt -- making workouts more effective. It also keeps workouts exciting. "Since you are always moving to the next exercise, you are less likely to get bored," said Fry. "It's often difficult for someone to continue the same activity for 30-40 minutes."

You don't need a gym. If you can't make it to the gym, Fry suggests using household items to do circuit training at home. "You could use milk jugs as weights," said Fry. "Each jug, filled with water, weighs eight pounds."

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