Extra 2,000 steps a day improves risk of diabetes

by Barbara Hewitt on December 25, 2013

An increase of just 2,000 steps a day can cut the risk of those in danger of developing type 2 diabetes from also developing serious health problems such as cardiovascular disease, a new international study has found.

diabetes walk

An extra 2,000 steps walking a day over a year can reduce the risk of cardiovascular events such as heart attack and stroke by 8%.

The research carried out by a team at the University of Leicester in the UK involved studying data on 9,306 adults from 40 countries with impaired glucose tolerance (IGT,) a precursor to diabetes.

It found that every extra 2,000 steps, roughly 20 minutes of moderately paced walking a day over the period of a year reduces the risk of cardiovascular events such as heart attack and stroke by 8%.

‘People with IGT have a greatly increased risk of cardiovascular disease. While several studies have suggested that physical activity is beneficially linked to health in those with IGT, this is the first study to specifically quantify the extent to which change in walking behaviour can modify the risk of heart disease, stroke, and cardiovascular-related deaths,’ said study leader Dr Thomas Yates.

It is estimated that IGT affects about 7.9% of the adult population, some 344 million people worldwide, and this number is projected to increase to 472 million or 8.4% by 2030.

All those taking part in the study received a lifestyle modification programme aimed at reducing body weight and dietary fat intake while increasing physical activity to 150 minutes a week.

Using a pedometer, researchers recorded usual walking activity, the average number of steps taken per day, over a week both at the start of the study and again 12 months later.

Statistical modelling was used to test the relationship between the number of steps taken per day and the risk of subsequent cardiovascular disease after adjusting for a wide range of confounding factors such as body mass index, smoking status, diet, clinical history and medication use.

Both levels of walking activity at the start of the study and change in walking activity over 12 months had a graded inverse association with subsequent risk of cardiovascular disease.

Specifically, for every 2,000 steps per day difference in walking activity at the start of the study there was a 10% difference in the risk of cardiovascular disease in subsequent years. On top of this, the risk of cardiovascular disease was further modified by 8% for every 2,000 steps per day that walking activity changed between the start of the study and 12 months later.

For example, if subject A took 4,000 steps per day at the start of the study and did not change their activity levels over the next 12 months, and subject B took 6,000 steps per day at the start of the study and increased their activity levels to 8,000 steps per day over the next 12 months, by the end of the study (other things being equal) subject B would have an 18% lower risk of cardiovascular disease.

‘Our results provide novel evidence that changing physical activity levels through simply increasing the number of steps taken can substantially reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, such as heart attack and stroke. Importantly, these benefits are seen regardless of bodyweight status or the starting level of activity,’ explained Yates.

‘These novel findings provide the strongest evidence yet for the importance of physical activity in high risk populations and will inform diabetes and cardiovascular disease prevention programmes worldwide,’ he added.


The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the DiabetesForum.com Community and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please see your doctor before making any changes to your diabetes management plan.

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