Regular walking may lower Type 2 diabetes risk in older adults; Study

By Shilpa Annie Joseph, Desk Reporter
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According to new research, walking regularly and at greater intensity may help prevent Type 2 diabetes among 70 and 80 year olds.

The study was published in the ‘Diabetes Care Journal’. The researchers founded that the more steps a person takes, and the more intense, the lower their risk for developing diabetes.

The primary aim of the study was to assess associations between total steps taken per day and the development of diabetes. Further, the secondary aim was to evaluate whether step intensity or cadence influenced diabetes risk.

“A key figure from our study is that for every 1,000 steps per day, our results showed a 6 percent lower diabetes risk in this population. What that means is, if the average older adult were to take 2,000 more steps every day in addition to what they were already doing, they might expect a 12 percent reduction in diabetes risk,” said first author Ms. Alexis C. Garduno, a third-year student in the University of California San Diego and San Diego State University joint doctoral program in public health.

A multi-institutional team of researchers analyzed data from the Women’s Health Initiative, whose aim was characterizing physical activity and cardiovascular health in postmenopausal women.

For the study, a diverse cohort of women 65 and older, who did not have a diabetes diagnosis and who lived independently, were asked to wear a research-grade accelerometer for 24 hours per day over the right hip for one week. Their health was followed for up to seven years.

“We wanted to understand the extent to which stepping, or walking, is related to diabetes. And, is 10,000 steps a day really necessary for people to reduce their risk for diabetes?” said senior author Mr. John Bellettiere, Ph.D., M.P.H., assistant professor of epidemiology at the Herbert Wertheim School of Public Health and Human Longevity Science at UC San Diego.

According to the researchers, “395 (8 percent) of the 4,838 women in the study developed diabetes. Further, Adults 65 and older often live with mobility or disability challenges. As physical activity drops their risk for Type 2 diabetes increases.”

“If we estimate that one-third of that population are older adults, that’s 500,000 older individuals who are newly diagnosed with diabetes every year. If all of them increase their steps by 2,000 steps per day and our 12 percent estimate is proven to be casual, we would expect 60,000 people each year to not get diabetes due to that increase in steps,” said Mr. Bellettiere.

As all steps matter, not just those taken for exercise, the accelerometers used in the study count steps throughout the day, whether an individual is at home moving from room to room, taking a walk outdoors, or moving about a grocery store, as per the reports.

“Additional randomized controlled trials are needed to determine the exact number of steps needed for risk reduction,” the researchers said.

“It’s important, even if you have staved off diabetes, to keep with it and to incorporate regular stepping as part of your daily schedule and make it into a routine. It’s not enough for somebody to go on a walk once a week. Our study indicates that regular stepping is indicative of lower diabetes risk in older adults,” Ms. Garduno further added.

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