Taking Regular Walks May Help Protect Seniors From Developing Diabetes

A daily walk is a good way to clear the mind, get some fresh air, and keep moving. A new study finds that it may also help protect against diabetes in your golden years.

Taking just an extra 1,000 steps per day could give seniors a reduced risk of developing diabetes. The more they add on, the lesser that risk may be. These findings came from a study led by researchers from the University of California San Diego. Published in the journal Diabetes Care, the research provides encouraging news that just a little extra movement can go a long way.

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Alexis C. Garduno, first author and doctoral student at UCSD, says, “A key figure from our study is that for every 1,000 steps per day, our results showed a 6% 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% reduction in diabetes risk.”

The team conducted the research to see if the standard health goal of 10,000 steps per day was necessary in reducing diabetes risk or if walking in general helped. To get their answer, they had more than 4,800 women over 65 wear accelerometers over their right hip for a week, 24 hours a day. The women, who did not have diabetes at the onset of the study and who lived independently, had health followups for up to seven years.

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At the end of the study, in addition to the 6% decrease in risk per 1,000 steps, the team found that moderate to vigorous intensity walking was more beneficial than lower intensity strolls. The team says this shows that upping your intensity a bit may be a better choice, if you have the mobility to do so.

With the American Diabetes Association estimating that 1.5 million Americans receive a diabetes diagnosis each year, the team says seniors working to lower their risk could help bring those numbers down.

Dr. John Bellettiere, senior author and assistant professor of epidemiology at UCSD, explains, “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% estimate is proven to be causal, we would expect 60,000 people each year to not get diabetes due to that increase in steps.”

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The team says that further research is needed to determine if there’s a minimum step total required for a reduced risk.

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