A new study published in The Lancet suggests that walking it an excellent way for people at high risk for type 2 diabetes to get healthier and reduce their heart attack and stroke risk.
The research team arrived at this conclusion after examining data from over 9,300 adults in 40 countries who were pre-diabetic. People with pre-diabetes are known to be at greater risk for stroke and heart attack.
Everyone who participated in the study were placed in programs designed to increase how much exercise they got, as well as to help them lose weight and reduce their consumption of fatty foods. Their average number of steps per day was recorded at the beginning of the program, to get a baseline for their level of activity, and then again a year later for comparison.
The researchers found that how much the participants were walking at the beginning of the study, as well as how much they changed their activity level throughout the year, affected their risk for cardiovascular disease.
For every 2,000 additional steps that people were taking at the beginning of the study, there was a 10 percent lower risk of developing heart attack and stroke later on. In addition, for every 2,000 steps per day that people increased their activity during the study, there was an 8 percent decrease in heart attack and stroke risk.
To illustrate how this works, the researchers cited an example of a person who was taking 4,000 steps per day at the beginning of the study, but made no changes during the next year. By way of comparison, they also cited a second hypothetical person who was taking 6,000 steps per day at the beginning of the study, but increased his daily steps by 2,000, to arrive at a total of 8,000 daily steps. In this scenario, the second person would then have an 18 percent lower risk for heart disease than the first, they say.
According to the lead author of the study, Dr. Thomas Yates of the University of Leicester in England, this study provides evidence that something as simple as increasing how much a person walks every day can have significant effects in reducing risk for heart attack and stroke. He also adds that these benefits can be obtained no matter what a person’s current weight or activity level are.
The study authors note that 2,000 steps is about equal to walking 20 minutes per day at a moderate pace.
The American Heart Association (AHA) currently recommends that people get 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise or 75 minutes per week of vigorous exercise. While they recommend 30 minutes per day, five days a week as an easy to remember activity goal, they do note that dividing exercise up into 10-15 minute segments throughout the day is also an acceptable way to attain this goal.
The AHA defines physical activity as anything that makes a person move or burn calories, including walking.
Background information in the study reports that pre-diabetes is a condition affecting 344 million adults around the globe. This figure is predicted to rise to 472 million by the year 2030.
By Nancy Schimelpfening