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By doing aerobic exercises regularly you can reduce the risk of pre-diabetes. Also called cardiovascular or cardio training, aerobic exercises comes in all forms. Your immediate thoughts about it probably brings to mind running or group exercise class. But cardio involves many more choices which makes it a no-brainier when it comes to reversing or preventing pre-diabetes. I will discuss the options later but for now let’s define cardiovascular fitness (CF).

What is cardio-respiratory/vascular fitness?

Aerobics by definition means conditioning the body’s ability to take in and use oxygen efficiently. The type of conditioning you do must raise your heart rate high enough to pump the excess demand for oxygenated blood throughout your body .

Cardio-respiratory fitness or aerobics gives us good measure of the heart’s ability to pump oxygen rich blood to the muscles. Remember, increasing muscular activity means burning more calories . . . even while at rest.

The three components of cardio are frequency – how often you do it, duration – how long you do it and intensity – how hard you do it. You or a personal trainer can determine your base measurements for these variables and tailor a program to build on.

Benefits of a good cardio program

Improving your cardio (heart) vascular (blood vessels) or respiratory (lungs and ventilation) fitness offers many benefits that can be realized in a short time – when done consistently. The key here is doing it regularly. You can’t expect to get cardio-fit by doing this when you feel like . . . it has to be part of a healthy lifestyle change.

  • Two major payoffs for pre-diabetics is that it will stabilize blood sugar levels and improve heart function. Doing cardio increases the sensitivity of insulin receptors in your body’s cells. In other words it gets circulating blood sugar into the cells where it can be better used for energy. Cardio also strengthens your heart causing it to pump precious life giving blood more efficiently throughout your body.
  • It’s the best way lose weight and reduce body fat – two risk factors for pre-diabetes.
  • Cardio in conjunction with proper dieting is the best way to maintain your weight once you have reached your goal weight.
  • To improve your respiration or breathing you will need to do cardio at least four times per week.
  • As mentioned above, your heart will be working more efficiently and as a consequence you will improve circulation and lower blood pressure . . . over time.

It’s very important to consult with your healthcare provider when starting any new activity. They can best advise as to how to proceed based on your current health status. 

To get the most from cardio you must prevent injuries

Injuries come in many forms, so to avoid them keep the following things in mind:

Wear cotton blend socks with comfortable shoes that’s appropriate for the type of activity you will be doing. For example, if playing basketball – wear high top shoes or for jogging or running – wear shoes that will absorb the stress and shock to your feet. Check you feet regularly to make sure there are no blisters or bruises. This is especially true for those who might be at the beginning stages of diabetes.

Start slowly and pay attention to the three component of cardio (frequency, duration and intensity) as your health improves.

Wear clothing that will wick away sweat and keep your body cool.

Stay hydrated by drinking water before, during and after your activity.

Avoid sports drink and any other sweetened beverages when training.

Keep a sugar tablet or some source of fast acting glucose in case your sugar level drops too fast. You can actually feel when your energy level suddenly begins to slow down (hypoglycemia).

Stay flexible by doing dynamic stretches before starting and static stretches after you’re finish.

Types of cardio exercises

There are multiple ways to do cardio exercises consistently. It must be an activity that you like doing since you will be doing it no less than four days per week.

Swimming is one of the best low impact exercises you can do to prevent pre-diabetes. You use your abs and back muscles, shoulders and arms, glutes and legs . . . all the major muscles of the body.

Cycling is another low impact cardio that not only improves your respiration but your legs, arms and abs.

I use the cross-trainer at my local gym. It’s also low impact and gives you a good sweat in a short time when used correctly.

Most forms of sporting activity – basketball, tennis, squash, martial arts, running, jumping rope, gymnastics, speed-walking, lacrosse, hockey, hiking – the list goes on – can be used for your cardio workout.

The key is to find an activity you will do consistently. 

How to improve your fitness level quickly and effectively

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and American Diabetes Association recommends doing at least 150 minutes of activity per week, however there is an effective way to reduce this amount by half or more.

As a personal trainer, I find the best way to reach optimum health in half the time is to incorporate HIIT training. This directly affect the intensity portion of the activity. Doing HIIT means speeding up the activity for a brief period followed by a lower intensity, or rest period, for approximately twice the amount of high intensity period. Do this for ten minutes or at least seven intervals. The benefit of this is that you will decrease the amount of time exercising by half of the recommend amount.

Interval training should only be done two or three times per week since it requires much energy output.

To prevent pre-diabetes from progressing to full-blown diabetes use the above cardio guidelines. You can also visit How to Prevent Pre-diabetes for a complete program on staying fit for life.

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