Walking in middle-age reduces risk of diabetes

Also reduces risk of high blood pressure
  • Deborah Condon

Middle-aged people who walk a lot may have a reduced risk of developing diabetes and high blood pressure, new research has suggested.

The findings are based on a study involving almost 2,000 adults, who wore accelerometer devices for at least 10 hours per day in 2005-2006. An accelerometer is a wearable device that measures physical activity, including walking.

The participants, whose average age was 45, were followed up for an average of almost a decade.

The study found that those who walked the most steps per day during the follow-up period had a 43% reduced risk of developing diabetes compared to those who walked the fewest steps.

They also had a 31% reduced risk of developing high blood pressure.

The study also found that among women, each 1,000-step interval resulted in a 13% reduced risk of obesity. Furthermore, those with the highest step counts were 61% less likely to be obese compared to those with the lowest step counts.

The same link was not found in men.

"Walking is a widely accessible form of physical activity, and steps per day is an easy measurement and motivator that most people understand and can easily measure given the booming industry of wearable technologies or smartphones.

"The results of our study add to the growing evidence about the importance of regular physical activity for improving heart health, and that preventive efforts can be effective, even as middle-aged adults move into older adulthood," commented the study's lead study author, Dr Amanda Paluch, of the University of Massachusetts in the US.

The researchers said that they would like to expand their research to ascertain whether walking speed might also have an impact on risks to the heart.

Dr Paluch noted that for people who find the idea of exercise daunting, "shifting the focus to accumulating steps throughout the day may help them become more active".

"The more steps, the better," she added.

Details of these findings were presented at the American Heart Association's Epidemiology and Prevention, Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health Scientific Sessions 2020, in Phoenix, Arizona.


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