excercise

Walking down stairs rather than up can help combat diabetes risk

by Barbara Hewitt on April 10, 2017

The simple act of walking down stairs rather than up could help prevent type 2 diabetes, according to new research conducted on elderly obese women in Australia.

While walking upstairs is also good for health the researchers from Edith Cowan University found that it is something known as eccentric exercise that makes the difference when it comes to diabetes risk.

The team of researchers from ECU’s School of Medical and Health Sciences recruited 30 obese elderly women and put them on an exercise programme with half walking upstairs and the others walking downstairs.

Lead researcher Professor Ken Nosaka said that at the end of the 12 week programme, the women who walked down stairs showed improvements on several physiological measures.

‘They had significantly lower levels of resting glucose, insulin and haemoglobin 1AC, improved oral glucose tolerance test, and decreased triglycerides and cholesterols together with an increase of good cholesterol (HDL cholesterol) in their blood,’ he explained.

‘All of these changes will have lowered their risk of developing diabetes. While both groups recorded an improvement it was significantly greater in the down stairs group,’ he added.

Nosaka said the greater improvement in the down stairs group is almost certainly because walking down stairs is what is called eccentric exercise where load is placed on the muscle while it is lengthening, rather than shortening.

‘For example, walking down stairs is eccentric exercise because your front thigh muscles are lengthening when they are placed under load, as opposed to walking upstairs in which the muscles are shortening, performing mainly concentric contractions,’ he pointed out.

As well as protecting against metabolic syndrome and diabetes, the researchers also found that the down stairs group’s physical function such as walking ability, balance, bone mineral density and resting heart rate and blood pressure all improved significantly more than the upstairs group.

‘This is yet more evidence that not all exercise is created equal in terms of its health benefits. There are lots of ways to incorporate eccentric exercise into your life to enjoy the health benefits,’ said Nosaka.

‘If you work in a tall building, try taking the lift up to work, but then walk down the stairs when you go home. Or, if you are using weights, concentrate on the lowering the weights slowly, because the lowering action causes your muscles to perform eccentric exercise,’ he explained.

‘Even sitting down in your chair slowly makes your leg muscles contract eccentrically so by sitting down slowly you can get a bit of eccentric exercise,’ he added.

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