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Exercise Doesn't Need To Be Intense: Zone 2 Training for Prediabetes

People doing Zone 2 exercise

Exercise and Prediabetes

Prediabetes is a condition where blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be classified as diabetes. It's a warning sign that your body is on the path towards developing type 2 diabetes. But don't worry, with some lifestyle changes, you can turn things around!

One of the most effective ways to combat prediabetes is through regular exercise. Physical activity helps to lower blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity. This means that your body can use insulin more efficiently to regulate blood sugar.

Now, you might be wondering what types of exercises are best for managing prediabetes. The good news is that any form of physical activity can make a difference! Whether it's going for a brisk walk, dancing to your favorite tunes, or hitting the gym for a workout session - every little bit counts.

The key is to aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per week. This could be broken down into 30 minutes of exercise on most days of the week. Additionally, incorporating strength training exercises two or more days per week can further enhance your overall health.

Exercise Doesn't Have To Be Intense

Over the past several years there have been many articles on the benefits of HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training), and I agree that it's a great way to get both aerobic and anaerboic exercise in a limited period of time. But there is recent research that suggests that "Zone 2" cardio can have some unique benefits. Specifically, research published in The American Journal of Physiology-Endrocrinology and Metabolism argued that moderate exercise improved glucose regulation in those people with blood sugar impairment.

So, what exactly is Zone 2 exercise? It's a type of aerobic exercise that focuses on keeping your heart rate in a specific zone between 60 and 70 percent of your overall maximum heart rate- not too intense and not too easy. This moderate intensity level allows your body to efficiently use oxygen and burn fat as fuel.

Matthew Laye, PhD, associate professor at The College of Idaho and chair of the Health and Human Performance Department says "There’s an 80-20 rule with training. About 80 percent of your training should be in an easier zone. Only a small fraction—20 percent or even less—should be at higher intensities."

Zone 2 for Prediabetes

So how does this benefit people with prediabetes? One major advantage is its positive impact on blood sugar control. Zone 2 exercise helps improve insulin sensitivity because it increases the number and efficiency of mitochondria. This helps your body become more efficient at using insulin to regulate blood sugar levels. This can be incredibly beneficial for those who are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

By incorporating Zone 2 exercises into your routine, you're giving your body a chance to lower its insulin resistance and improve glucose metabolism. It's like giving your cells a little extra boost to function optimally.

So whether it's going for a brisk walk or hopping on an elliptical machine at the gym, engaging in Zone 2 exercises can make a real difference for those with prediabetes.

How To Incorporate Zone 2 Into Your Exercise Routine

So how can you make the most of Zone 2 exercise in your fitness routine? Here are some quick tips to get you started:

1. Start with a warm-up: Begin each workout with a light warm-up to prepare your body for the upcoming exercise. This could include dynamic stretches or light cardio activities like jogging or cycling.

2. Choose the right activities: Zone 2 exercises are typically aerobic in nature, so focus on activities that elevate your heart rate without pushing it too hard. Some examples include brisk walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, or using an elliptical machine.

3. Monitor your effort level: During Zone 2 workouts, pay attention to how you feel and maintain an effort level that allows you to carry on a conversation comfortably without feeling breathless.

4. Gradually increase duration and intensity: Start with shorter sessions of around 20-30 minutes and gradually increase both the duration and intensity of your workouts as you build endurance over time.

5. Mix it up: Don't be afraid to vary your exercises within Zone 2 training. Incorporate different activities and workout formats like interval training or circuit training to keep things interesting and challenge different muscle groups.

How Do You Know When You're In Zone 2?

Although there are formulas for calculating when you're in zone 2, they're based on averages and likely inaccurate for YOU. A better way is the Talk Test: say a 15-word sentence while exercising (such as "I don't watch TV as much as I used to when I was a kid"). Once you reach a pace where you have to slow down to say the sentence, then you're in the peak of Zone 2.

Zone 2 For Better Health!

Embracing the power (and ease) of Zone 2 exercise can be a game-changer in managing prediabetes. By incorporating low-intensity aerobic activities into your daily routine, you can improve insulin sensitivity, lower blood sugar levels, and reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Zone 2 exercise offers a multitude of benefits beyond just managing prediabetes. It helps improve cardiovascular health, aids in weight management, boosts mood and mental well-being, and enhances overall fitness levels.

So why not lace up those sneakers and take a brisk walk or hop on a bike ride? Embrace the power of Zone 2 exercise and take control of your health. Start small, gradually increase intensity and duration, and make it a sustainable part of your lifestyle. Remember though, always consult with your healthcare provider before starting any new exercise regimen.

As I often explain to my clients, managing prediabetes is not about drastic changes or deprivation. It's about finding enjoyable ways to stay active and make healthier choices. Consistency is key when incorporating Zone 2 exercise into your fitness routine. Aim for at least three to five sessions per week to see improvements. So lace up those sneakers, find your rhythm, and enjoy the benefits of Zone 2 exercise!


Did you know that a steam sauna can improve blood sugar?

Yes, that’s right! And there are many other ways to improve blood sugar. Addressing prediabetes doesn’t have to be hard. Ready to improve your blood sugar without changing your diet? Sign up for my FREE mini course, 10 Ways to Improve Blood Sugar Without Changing Your Diet. It’s a free email course, and it’s a fast and easy way to learn 10 impactful tips to begin balancing your blood sugar TODAY! Learn more 



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