By Sally Robertson
Modest amounts of daily walking can significantly reduce the risk for incident diabetes in obese and relatively inactive individuals, show findings from a US study.
Participants who took at least 3500 steps (approximately 1.75 miles) a day were 29% less likely to develop diabetes compared with more sedentary participants, report Amanda Fretts (University of Washington, Seattle) and team.
Current guidelines recommend accumulating 10,000 steps per day as part of a healthy lifestyle and several studies suggest that people who do this have a decreased risk for obesity and better glucose tolerance compared with individuals who accumulate fewer steps.
"However, it is not known whether participating in more modest levels of activity is associated with a lower risk of diabetes in a high-risk, relatively inactive population," says the team.
During a 5-year follow-up study of 1826 American Indian participants (mean body mass index [BMI] 32.0 kg/m2) from the Strong Heart Family Study, the authors found that 243 individuals who were initially free of diabetes and cardiovascular disease developed diabetes.
Compared with individuals in the lowest quartile of pedometer-measured steps per day (<3500 steps), those in the second quartile (3500-5399 steps) were 24% less likely to develop incident diabetes, after adjustment for confounders.
This indicates that in an obese and relatively inactive population, even modest amounts of objectively measured steps per day are associated with lower odds for developing diabetes, write Fretts et al.
Interestingly, the risk benefit was similar for those in the third (5400-7799 steps) and fourth (≥7800 steps) quartiles, whose risk for incident diabetes decreased by 26% and 23%, respectively, compared with those walking less than 3500 steps per day.
On comparison of the upper three versus lowest quartiles for steps per day, the risk for diabetes was decreased by 29%.
"Health benefits do not appear to be limited to only the most active individuals… above3,500 steps/day, more was not better than less activity," remark the researchers in Diabetes Care.
The team says the findings suggests a need for physical activity education and outreach programs that target inactive individuals, particularly American Indians, who have epidemic rates of obesity, physical activity, and Type 2 diabetes.
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