Higher Daily Step Count Linked to Lower Type 2 Diabetes Risk

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Higher Daily Step Count Linked to Lower Type 2 Diabetes Risk

Taking a greater number of daily steps is linked to a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes, according to a new study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

Since wearable fitness tracking devices became widespread, it has been common to hear about people “getting their steps in” — that is, meeting a daily goal for how many steps they take. Wearable fitness trackers can count the steps you take in your daily life — including around the house — so they help provide a complete picture of your physical activity, whether or not you incorporate planned exercise into your routine. A widespread daily step goal is 10,000 steps, and there is evidence to suggest that this number isn’t just arbitrary. One recent study showed that among older adults participants, those who took an average of about 9,800 steps daily had the lowest risk of developing dementia (advanced cognitive impairment). But even if you don’t take 10,000 daily steps, more steps are likely to be better for your health. One study showed that even in a group of participants that took an average of far fewer than 10,000 steps daily, every 2,000 steps were linked to a 12% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

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For the latest study, researchers looked at data from a study called All of Us, which included 5,677 participants who wore a Fitbit activity tracker and had their average daily step count and intensity recorded. The median age of participants was 51, 74% were women, and 89% identified as white.

During a follow-up period lasting a median of 3.8 years between 2010 and 2021, 97 participants (2%) developed type 2 diabetes. After adjusting for various factors known to affect the risk of developing type 2 diabetes — including age, sex, and race — the researchers found that compared with participants who took an average of 6,000 daily steps, those who took an average of 10,700 steps daily were 44% less likely to develop type 2 diabetes. Similarly, spending more time in a “very active,” “fairly active,” or “lightly active” state was linked to a lower risk of developing diabetes, with a greater risk reduction seen from more intensive physical activity.

The researchers concluded that greater time spent engaged in physical activity — even less intensive activity — was linked to a lower risk for developing type 2 diabetes, regardless of participants’ age, sex, or body-mass index (BMI, a measure of body weight that takes height into account), or how much time they spent sedentary or inactive.

Want to learn more about the benefits of walking? Read “Getting Your Steps In,” “Walking for Weight Loss,” and “The Health Benefits of Walking.”

Living with type 2 diabetes? Check out our free type 2 e-course!

Quinn Phillips

Quinn Phillips

Quinn Phillips on social media

A freelance health writer and editor based in Wisconsin, Phillips has a degree from Harvard University. He is a former Editorial Assistant for Diabetes Self-Management and has years of experience covering diabetes and related health conditions. Phillips writes on a variety of topics, but is especially interested in the intersection of health and public policy.

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