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Type 2 diabetes is most common in people over the age of 45, and that can spell big trouble…
Having type 2 diabetes can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease by causing the endothelial cells that line your blood vessels to malfunction. This could lead to plaque buildup, stroke and heart disease.
Other health problems linked to type 2 diabetes include nerve damage, foot sores and infections, vision loss and blindness, kidney problems and sexual difficulties like vaginal dryness and erectile dysfunction.
Given all this, it’s important to do whatever you can to reduce your odds of developing type 2 diabetes or to properly manage the condition if you already have it.
Research has found that sitting too much can be a recipe for type 2 diabetes. So exercise is definitely an important part of managing diabetes risk.
As with most things, the type of exercise that’s best for lowering your risk of type 2 diabetes is the exercise you’re most likely to stick with. But if you’re not someone who enjoys intense gym workouts or vigorous aerobic activities like running, I have some good news for you…
A good walk does your blood sugar good
Walking is a great way to reduce diabetes risk. According to one study, participants who didn’t walk were up to 66 percent more likely to develop heart disease and diabetes.
Even the American Diabetes Association recommends light walking as a great place for people with diabetes to get started in managing their condition. This is especially effective when done after eating. At least two studies show walking after a meal has a greater effect on lowering blood sugar than walking at other times during the day.
How long or far do you have to walk to lower your diabetes risk? As with most health conditions, it appears the more steps you take, the better your protection against developing type 2 diabetes.
A team of researchers recently analyzed Fitbit data and type 2 diabetes rates from a group of participants in the National Institutes of Health’s All of Us research program between 2010 and 2021. About 75 percent of the participants studied were female.
After analyzing the data, researchers found participants with an average daily step count of 10,700 were 44 percent less likely to develop type 2 diabetes than those with an average of 6,000 steps per day. This appears to be true regardless of age, sex, body mass index (BMI) or the amount of time spent sedentary.
Prior studies of the relationship between physical activity and type 2 diabetes relied on questionnaires conducted at a single time point. Dr. Andrew S. Perry of Vanderbilt University Medical Center notes the data used by the study was obtained from wearable devices linked to electronic health records.
“We found that people who spent more time in any type of physical activity had a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes,” Perry says. “Our data shows the importance of moving your body every day to lower your risk of diabetes.”
Perry adds the researchers hope to study more diverse populations in future studies to confirm the findings.
Optimizing your walks
Interestingly, this study appears to contradict an earlier review of data from select All of Us participants that indicates the risk of diabetes and hypertension remained the same even after participants reached 8,000 to 9,000 steps per day.
That earlier study also showed people who are already overweight can reduce their risk of becoming obese by 64 percent by increasing their steps from 6,000 to 11,000 a day. Since obesity is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes, that’s another great reason to up your daily step count.
If you find it a struggle to reach 11,000 steps a day, you might want to try breaking it down into more manageable chunks instead of doing it all at once. For instance, it takes about 10 minutes of brisk walking to hit 1,000 steps. So if you aim for a 10-minute walk every hour you’re awake, you’ll exceed that 11,000-step goal.
Whatever you do, make sure you’re not making these 7 common mistakes that can reduce the health benefits of your walks.
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Women who take more steps per day may have a lower risk of diabetes — Endocrine Society
Association of Longitudinal Activity Measures and Diabetes Risk: An Analysis From the National Institutes of Health All of Us Research Program — The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism
It’s a great time to get moving. — American Diabetes Association