Walking faster found beneficial in treating type2 diabetes

Being physically active has been linked to a range of health benefits. Every activity, from engaging in active sports, games, and strenuous physical exercises, all the way to going for a light jog or taking a leisurely walk down a park have been associated with providing positive mental and physical health outcomes.

While walking outdoors even at a slow pace beats sitting idly at home, a new study finds that picking up the speed in walking can lower the risk of developing type2 diabetes. Compared to a slower walking pace, a faster walking rate has been linked to better cardio-respiratory health and fewer heart disease risk factors, including higher insulin resistance, higher body weight, and higher blood pressure, as well as better lower limb and core strength, and better overall functional capacity

Diabetes is a chronic disease that currently affects over half a billion people around the world, of whom, over 95 percent are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Doctors typically recommend medications, as well as lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise to manage diabetes. However, three in four adults with diabetes live in low- and middle-income countries where their access and affordability to diabetes medication and treatment, as well as choice of diet is often limited.

The new study which shows that walking helps improve type 2 diabetes could benefit everyone, especially those unable to access or afford appropriate and regular medication for treating diabetes. The study findings demonstrated that when the walking pace was around 4 km per hour, the risk for developing type 2 diabetes decreased, and that as the speed went up by 1 km per hour the risk was lowered by 9 percent.

The cohort study, by researchers at Semnan University in Iran who analyzed data of more than 500,000 adults over a period from 1999 to 2022, found that people who walked at an average or normal speed of around 4 km per hour — equal to 87 steps per minute for males and 100 steps per minute for females — were associated with a 15 percent reduced risk of type 2 diabetes compared to people who walked at a slower pace.

Of the 10 studies included in the longitudinal review, 5 used timed walking-pace tests and 5 used self-reported questionnaires to measure walking speed. Studies with self-reported methods reported weaker, but still significant associations, so the researchers suggested that prospective cohort studies in future should use more objective methods to measure walking speed, such as timed walking-pace tests so as to present more robust evidence. They also called for future studies to investigate the potential association between time of walking (morning, evening, or night) and diabetes risk.

People who walk faster were found to have greater cardiac health and overall better functional capacity, as well as better lower limb and core strength. Health experts say the study reiterates that walking strengthens the heart and helps it relax so it is a more efficient pump. Fast walking also promotes vascular health by boosting the production of nitric oxide, a chemical that helps improve blood flow and lowers blood pressure. Higher intensity walking also requires greater contribution from blood glucose.

Other health benefits of walking at a faster pace include reduced insulin resistance. lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglycerides, and higher HDL (good) cholesterol. Another advantage of going faster is that you can do less of the same exercise. For instance, in place of 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity walking, you can do 75 minutes of rapid vigorous walking.

To start walking faster, either use a wearable pacer device that has a pace function or use an electronic metronome and keep up with a certain frequency of beats with each step. Also, force yourself to do your same walk distance in a shorter time,
To gauge your walking speed, you can use a pace device such as a wearable monitor that helps to make sure you are keeping at the correct faster pace, and warn you to speed up if you are falling behind.

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