Your Walking Speed Influences Your Risk for Diabetes

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 29, 2023 (HealthDay News) -- People can walk away their risk of developing type 2 diabetes – but only if they walk fast enough, a new report finds.

Folks who walk at least 2.5 miles an hour appear to have a significantly lower risk of type 2 diabetes, according to a study published Nov. 28 in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

That’s the equivalent of 87 steps per minute for men and 100 steps per minute for women, said a team led by Dr Ahmad Jayedi of Semnan University of Medical Sciences in Semnan, Iran.

And the faster above that threshold, the better – every half-mile per hour you add to your walking speed is associated with an additional 9% reduction in risk, results show.

Walking has been associated with a lower risk of diabetes, but these findings show that a brisk pace is better than a slow amble, researchers said.

“While current strategies to increase total walking time are beneficial, it may also be reasonable to encourage people to walk at faster speeds, to further increase the health benefits of walking,” the researchers noted in a journal news release.

In this analysis, the team conducted a review of all long-term studies that included data on diabetes risk and walking. They identified 10 relevant studies involving more than a half million people from the United States, the U.K. and Japan, all published between 1999 and 2022.

Pooling the data, Jayedi's team found that an average walking speed of 2 to 3 miles per hour (mph) was associated with a 15% lower risk of type 2 diabetes, compared with walking slower than 2 mph.

Further, brisk walking at 3 to 4 mph was associated with a 24% lower risk of diabetes, when compared to a slow amble, results show.

Walking faster than 4 mph reduced diabetes risk around 39% -- equal to about two fewer cases of type 2 diabetes for every 100 people.

The researchers said it makes sense that walking speed could be linked to diabetes risk.

People who can walk faster have better muscle strength and cardio fitness, both of which are linked to overall health as well as lower diabetes risk, the researchers said.

In addition, brisk walking is good for weight loss, and every pound a person drops improves their insulin response. 

“The present meta-analysis of cohort studies suggests that fairly brisk and brisk/striding walking, independent of the total volume of physical activity or time spent walking per day, may be associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes in adults,” the researchers concluded.

More information

The American Diabetes Association has more about the benefits of walking.

SOURCE: BMJ, news release, Nov. 28, 2023

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