Fast walking can strongly lower risk of type 2 diabetes, study finds

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A recent study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine has found a link between walking speed and a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes.

This pooled data analysis suggests that walking at speeds of 4 km/hour or more significantly lowers the risk of developing the disease.

For every 1 km increase in walking speed above 4 km/hour, there’s a 9% reduction in the risk of type 2 diabetes.

The study included data from 10 long-term studies, involving over 500,000 adults from the USA, Japan, and the UK, and covering periods from 3 to 11 years.

Compared to strolling (<3 km/hour), normal walking speed (3-5 km/hour) was linked to a 15% lower diabetes risk. Fairly brisk walking (5-6 km/hour) showed a 24% lower risk, while brisk walking or striding (>6 km/hour) showed a 39% reduction.

Walking Speed as a Health Indicator

Walking speed is not just a physical activity but also an indicator of overall health, including cardiorespiratory fitness and muscle strength.

Both factors are closely linked to diabetes risk. Additionally, brisk walking aids in weight loss, which improves insulin sensitivity, further reducing diabetes risk.

With the global number of adults with type 2 diabetes expected to reach 783 million by 2045, incorporating brisk walking into daily routines could be a simple and cost-effective way to combat this rise.

This exercise is also associated with mental, social, and other physical health benefits.

The researchers acknowledge certain limitations in their analysis:

Risk of Bias: Some studies included in the analysis had a moderate to serious risk of bias, mainly due to inadequate adjustment for influential factors and how walking speed was assessed.

Reverse Causality: Faster walking individuals might already be more physically active and healthier, which could influence the results.

Encouraging Faster Walking

Despite these limitations, the findings are significant. The researchers suggest that while increasing the total walking time is beneficial, encouraging faster walking speeds could amplify health benefits, especially in preventing type 2 diabetes.

This meta-analysis underscores the importance of walking speed in reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes.

It suggests that health promotion strategies should not only focus on increasing walking time but also on encouraging brisker walking paces to maximize health benefits.

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The research findings can be found in British Journal of Sports Medicine.

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