Taking More Steps Benefits Children With Type 1 Diabetes

Keeping track of how many steps they take each day and increasing this amount by just 1,000 can help improve heart health in children with Type 1 diabetes, according to new research from the University of Adelaide and Women’s and Children’s Hospital in Australia. Approximately 1.25 million Americans (0.4% of the population) and 130,000 Australians (0.5% of the population) are living with Type 1.

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition in which the body mistakenly destroys the insulin-producing beta cells of the pancreas. Children with the condition often show early signs of atherosclerosis (a condition in which arteries are narrowed by fatty deposits) and also generally report getting less exercise than recommended for their age.

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To evaluate the effects of exercise on heart health, researchers tracked the daily physical activity of 90 children ages 10–17 with Type 1 diabetes. Fifty-five percent were found to be taking fewer than the frequently recommended goal of at least 10,000 steps per day.

The subjects who engaged in more physical activity showed improvements in risk factors for heart disease. According to the researchers, there were clear links between blood vessel structure and the number of steps taken each day, with measurable decreases in artery thickness for an increase of 1,000 steps per day. The children who took additional steps also had reductions in weight, blood pressure, and triglycerides (blood fats), which translates to an overall lower risk of heart disease.

“Our findings emphasize the importance of physical activity for children, and the need for advice on the benefits of exercise for children with Type 1 diabetes,” notes lead study author Alexia Peña. “The more steps they do, the better.”

For more information, see the article “Extra 1,000 steps a day benefit children with Type 1 diabetes” or the study in the journal Diabetes Care. And to learn more about keeping kids with Type 1 diabetes healthy, read “Top 10 Tips for Better Blood Glucose Control,” by 2014 Diabetes Educator of the year Gary Scheiner.

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