To Ward Off Diabetes, Walk

Regular physical activity has a variety of known health benefits, including improving heart health and providing protection against Type 2 diabetes, but in today’s hectic world, it can be difficult to find the motivation to take up a formal exercise routine. Researchers in Australia, however, have found that increasing insulin sensitivity and staving off diabetes can be as simple as doing a bit more of something you’re already likely doing every day: walking.


The study, conducted at Murdoch Childrens Research Institute in Melbourne, looked at 592 middle-aged people taking part in a study to evaluate diabetes levels and risk factors in Australia from 2000 to 2005. At the start of the study, the participants, most of whom were overweight, completed a diet and lifestyle questionnaire and were given a thorough health examination. They were then given a pedometer, along with instruction on how to use it.

At the end of five years, the participants were reevaluated. It was found that a higher daily amount of walking was associated with a lower body-mass index and waist-to-hip ratio and better insulin sensitivity. These effects remained even after lifestyle factors such as diet, alcohol intake, and smoking were taken into account. They were also independent of daily calorie intake, and instead appeared to be associated with changes in adiposity (fat levels) related to the increased walking.

Although previous studies have shown that exercise interventions can reduce insulin resistance, this is the first study to show that real-life attempts to increase physical activity can be effective at improving insulin sensitivity.

The researchers suggested that a relatively inactive person who changed their behavior over the course of five years to reach the widely recommend goal of 10,000 steps per day would improve his insulin sensitivity threefold compared to someone who increased his walking to 3,000 steps five days a week. They concluded that “These findings, confirming an independent beneficial role of higher daily step count on body-mass index, waist-to-hip ratio, and insulin sensitivity, provide further support to promote higher physical activity levels among middle-aged adults.”

To learn more about the study, read the article “Taking More Steps Every Day Can Help Ward Off Diabetes” or see the study in the British Medical Journal. And if you need some added motivation to get moving, check out the article “Training for a Walkathon.”

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  • jim snell

    Brisk walking – you bet – 1 to 2 miles a day.

    Ward off – yes. My situation was fixing mess. Walking/exercise smoked out problem, helped drop insulin resistance ( cells full of glucose), got numbers under control, dropped actos.

    Would not have got there without walking/exercise.

    Diet, vitamin supplements next sharing spot with meds.

    Lightly walking dog not enough exercise unless both walk the 1 to 2 miles.

  • Lynne Nelson

    I’ve been walking at an hour or more each day for the past ten years and have managed to keep my diabetes under control without medication, following only diet an exercise guidelines. I find it especially helpful to walk 15 minutes directly after dinner to counteract the slower metabolism that starts in the evenings.

    I usually walk 45 minutes in the morning and another half hour after lunch and 15 minutes after dinner, always making sure that my glucose reading is under 120, preferably closer to 100 or less, before each meal.

    I should add that I avoid sugar and eat only a minimum quantity of whole grains and no white flour. I eat legumes in soups and in various other forms as they definitely help control my insulin reaction and are filling and taste good!

  • Steve

    I’ve been pedometer-walking, targeting 10,000 steps a day since fall 2007. My average since I began walking is 8800 steps a day. I have had Type II since 1997 diagnosis and insulin-dependent since fall 2007. What I have observed is threefold: First, I feel really crappy if I can’t get my steps in, especially the 6000 aerobic; second, taking a 30-minute walk (1.5 miles) can drop my blood glucose up to 50 points, depending on what food was used to get the count too high (bread rolls, heavy carbs, sweets, etc); third, I use much less insulin when I’ve been walking than otherwise. If I’m on a travel day and can only walk in the airport, I may only get 2-3000 steps for the day; the result is 2-3 times as much insulin, again, depending on my choice of food.

    When my doc said 10,000 steps, I thought she’d gone right round the bend. Fortnately, she took me with her. My average is 3.5 million steps per year. My pedometer is an Omron HJ720IT. Super accurate and super dependable. Around $30 at Amazon.

  • Ferne

    Good for all of you but very discouraging for those of us who can’t walk.