Stephen Makin, PhD

English C, Hillier S, Lynch E. Circuit Class Therapy for Improving Mobility After Stroke. Stroke. 2017

There are few things in life I find more boring than going to the gym. Running on a treadmill or lifting weights for what seems like hours just doesn’t interest me.

Circuit class can be fun though. You get to try lots of different exercises and move onto the next one before they get boring.

But could they also work in the stroke unit gym? After all, that’s nothing like a usual gym.

This is something people have been asking for a while. The first study of circuit training in stroke rehabilitation was carried out in 2000. English and colleagues have updated the Cochrane review on circuit training after stroke.

There have been 17 RCTs with 1297 stroke survivors. These were both studies in the hospital and studies in the community.

When the studies were combined together, they found that circuit training improved walking speed and independence in walking.

It’s difficult to do fully blinded studies in rehab — after all, you know whether you are in a circuit class or standard — but overall the risk of bias was only moderate, which is probably the best you can get for this type of study.

There was also an improvement in cardiovascular fitness.

There weren’t many downsides of circuit training identified; there were more falls in the intervention group, but that wasn’t statistically significant.

Unfortunately, we don’t know if the increase in walking speed led to an increase in independence, nor an improvement in quality of life, for the participants. We also don’t know if people preferred taking part in circuit therapy compared to standard therapy.

Nevertheless, circuit training for stroke rehabilitation really looks very promising.