It might take longer to lose weight at Curves than you think. In a 2005 article, the American Council on Exercise, or ACE, described Curves for Women as one of the fastest-growing franchises in American history. However, ACE conducted its own study on Curves' workout and found that the calories participants burned were on the modest side. If you burn the average number of calories — as ACE participants did — and don't cut calories, you'd have to go to Curves every day for almost three weeks before you a single pound of weight.
How Curves Works
Curves combines cardio exercise and strength training in a 30-minute circuit-training workout. Exercise equipment is positioned in a circle. Exercisers go from one station to another, alternating 30 seconds of strength training with 30 seconds of walking, jogging or running on a "recovery board." The circuit training component takes 25 minutes, which is followed by a five-minute stretch session. According to ACE, most women go through the circuit twice.
ACE tapped the talent of University of Wisconsin at La Crosse researchers to launch its own assessment of Curves for Women. Fifteen women between the ages of 26 and 55 went through two Curves workouts, which lasted 30 minutes. Researchers found that the study participants burned 184 calories on average during the entire 30-minute workout session, but only 163 during the 25-minute circuit. Researchers noted that the Curves workout was roughly equivalent to walking on a treadmill for 30 minutes at 4 mph -- a moderately intense workout. Every pound of weight you want to lose is the equivalent of 3,500 calories. If you worked out at Curves for Women every day and burned the average number of calories without adjusting your eating habits, you'd have to go through 19 workouts before you lost 1 lb.
Calories and Weight Loss
To lose 1 lb. of weight, you need to create a 500 calorie deficit every day, either by reducing the number of calories in your diet or burning off the calories through exercise. Assuming you burn 184 calories at Curves, you'd have to trim more than 300 calories from your daily diet. However, as the study notes, this is only the average number of calories study participants burned at Curves. The more you weigh, the more calories you burn during circuit training. Harvard Medical School data indicates that someone that weighs 125 lbs. burns about 240 calories during the average half-hour circuit training session. Someone that weighs 185 lbs. burns around 350.
Researchers noticed a specific dynamic among regular exercisers at Curves while conducting their study. Many women tended to treat the facility as a place to get together for a social session, which took the primary focus off exercise. Researchers complimented the Curves workout for its inclusion of strength training, but criticized the program for not including enough cardiovascular exercise -- a key component needed for weight loss. ACE concludes that Curves for women may be satisfactory for people that have been sedentary for a long period of time; however, if you're up for a more intense exercise challenge, you might get bored with the routine.
If you workout at a leisurely pace, stopping to chat with your fellow exercisers, it might take a long time making visits to Curves before you see any noticeable weight-loss results. The National Institute of Medicine indicates that an hour of moderately intense to vigorous exercise each day may be more appropriate for people trying to lose weight. Thirty minutes of exercise is sufficient for people that exercise to maintain their general level of fitness. When it comes to weight loss, however, the more exercise you get, the better your results. Harvard Medical School advocates burning 2,000 calories a week through exercise, or roughly 285 calories a day. A 185-lb. person burns roughly this amount walking at a very brisk speed of 4 mph for 40 minutes. A 125-lb. person would have to walk for an hour at the same pace to burn the same number of calories.
- American Council on Exercise: ACE First to Evaluate Curves® for Women - World's Most Popular Fitness Franchise (March 2005)
- American Council on Exercise: Physical Activity Calorie Counter
- Harvard Medical School: Calories burned in 30 minutes for people of three different weights
- Harvard Medical School: Exercise Your Right to Health