Study: Walking Daily Can Reduce Your Diabetes Risk by 74%

Researchers have found that two popular pastimes may be powerful ways to work off your chance of developing Type 2 diabetes.

Diabetes – a growing concern

Diabetes, especially Type 2, is more than just a rising global statistic with an estimated 96 million Americans currently pre-diabetic. This disease affects an individual’s quality of life, leading to potential complications such as cardiovascular disease, nerve damage, kidney disease, eye issues, and psychological effects, like depression.

Diabetes can create a drain on the patient, but it also significantly affects healthcare systems through direct medical costs and the indirect costs of managing diabetes-related complications. Thus, much of the healthcare community agrees that the fight against diabetes is an important issue that requires urgent attention and innovative strategies.

Fortunately, if you’ve been intending to step up your health game, data from a hopeful new study might be all you need to get moving. According to June 2023 findings published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, two particularly upbeat activities could drastically lower your risk of developing diabetes if you make a little time to move to them every day.

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Findings from the study

The research found a strong link between higher levels of physical activity—specifically moderate-to-vigorous-intensity physical activity like dancing or brisk walking—and a reduced chance of developing Type 2 diabetes.

The researchers discovered a direct correlation between the amount of moderate-to-vigorous activity performed and the likelihood of developing Type 2 diabetes, even when considering genetic predispositions. To put it simply, the more a person engaged in this type of activity, the lower their risk of developing the disease…even when it ran in their family.

The research team compared groups of participants based on their activity levels and found that those who were more active had a significantly lower risk, or hazard ratio (HR), of developing diabetes. A hazard ratio, to clarify, is a tool researchers use to compare the likelihood of a certain event (in this case, developing diabetes) happening in one group versus another.

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The study grouped participants by the activity amount performed daily. One group engaged in activity for 5.3 to 25.9 minutes, another for 26.0 to 68.4 minutes, and a third group for more than 68.4 minutes. The researchers found hazard ratios of 0.63, 0.41, and a remarkably low 0.26, respectively—meaning those who did the most moderate to vigorous physical activity showed the lowest risk.

To put this in perspective, doing more than 68.4 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per day was associated with a striking 74% lower risk of developing Type 2 diabetes when compared to those who did less than 5.2 minutes per day.

The study’s senior author, Professor Melody Ding from Sydney University, addressed the issue of genetic risk, which is beyond individual control: “People are unable to control their genetic risk and family history,” Dr. Ding said. “But this finding provides promising and positive news that through an active lifestyle, one can fight off much of the excessive risk for Type 2 diabetes.”

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The takeaway

This study suggests the path to a healthier life appears to be as simple as shaking a leg. As forms of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity, walking and dancing are not only fun but also highly beneficial to health. Dancing can serve as a total-body workout, engaging various muscle groups and improving cardiovascular health, flexibility, and balance.

On the other hand, brisk walking is a low-impact activity that boosts heart health, has been clinically shown to lift the mood, and can be easily incorporated into daily routines, among other advantages. Both activities can help manage body weight, improve insulin sensitivity, and enhance overall metabolic health, reducing the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

The battle against diabetes might not require grandiose interventions but rather small, enjoyable lifestyle changes. Taking up dancing or incorporating brisk walks into your daily routine could significantly lower your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

Remember, it’s not merely about knowing these health benefits but integrating them into your life. After all, in the face of alarming health statistics, making informed and conscious choices about our lifestyle habits is more critical than ever.

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Dr. Patricia Varacallo, DO
Tricia is a doctor of osteopathy with experience in primary healthcare. She received her medical degree from the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine and conducts clinical research in Sports Medicine and Orthopedics, as she is motivated by the desire to contribute to the development of innovative treatments and therapies. She is also a certified lifestyle coach for the CDC-recognized National Diabetes Prevention Program, empowering individuals to make lasting, healthy lifestyle changes. Dr. Varacallo loves to write— especially about health, wellness, and grief. Drawing from her own experiences of loss and caregiving, she loves to offer support and encouragement to those navigating their own grief journeys. Outside of her professional life, she enjoys traveling and exploring the sunny beaches of Florida with her significant other, always ready for their next adventure.