Surprising Benefits of Speeding Up Your Walk

Surprising Benefits of Speeding Up Your Walk

Surprising Benefits of Speeding Up Your Walk

39% Lower Diabetes Risk! Surprising Benefits of Speeding Up Your Walk

There are more than 540 million people worldwide with Diabetes which is expected to rise to 643 million by 2030 according to the International Diabetes Federation (IDF). The alarming average estimated growth of 58% from 2021 to 2045 makes Diabetes highly concerning as a global health risk. Several researches have documented the potential of moderate-intensity activities like walking, and physical activity such as gardening as effective tools for reducing type 2 diabetes risk. These activities are common, accessible, and relatively safe, making them an attractive option for many adults. A recent study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine shifts the focus to walking speed and its association with the risk of type 2 Diabetes. This article presents the key insights and explores the association between walking speed and Type 2 Diabetes.

Walking is the most underrated physical activity. Many researchers suggest that walking speed could be an indicator of our health. The positive impact of walking, its quick measurability and sensitivity to changes in health makes it a potential functional vital sign, particularly useful for assessing health risks in older adults. While past researchers conclude that walking frequently has been associated with lower risk of Type 2 Diabetes, recent research has focused on the association between walking speed and Type 2 diabetes.

Walking Speed and Diabetes Risk: Key Research Findings

The researchers examined the link between walking speed and type 2 diabetes risk in analyzing 508, 121 adults from 1999 and 2022 to conclude that Walking faster is linked to a lower risk of type 2 diabetes. When compared to casual walking (<3 km/hour speed), faster walking speeds showed significant risk reduction for Type 2 Diabetes. The research confirmed that,

  • Average/normal walking (3.2-4.8 km/h) can lead to 15% reduction in the risk of diabetes.
  • Fairly brisk walking (4.8-6.4 km/h) can lead to 24% reduction in the risk of diabetes.
  • Brisk/striding walking (>6.4 km/h) can lead to 39% reduction in the risk of diabetes.

The benefit starts at 4 km/h (around 2.5 mph). The reduction in the risk of diabetes is stronger as the walking speed increases. This is independent of the total walking time or the distance. While the evidence is moderately strong, the may have some limitations and more research is needed for complete certainty.

However, incorporating faster walking into your routine may be a simple and effective way to reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Benefits of Brisk Walking for Diabetes Prevention & Management

Research in the past concluded that people who struggle to control their blood glucose despite medication have benefitted from walking, which is a fairly safe and accessible form of exercise with potential benefits for blood sugar control in type 2 diabetes management. The research seeks to clarify the effectiveness of walking for type diabetes patients and provide guidance on the most beneficial walking protocols.

Walking regularly is crucial for managing type 2 diabetes, but many patients struggle with adherence. Walking also improves glucose control, cardiovascular health, weight management, and overall well-being in people with type 2 diabetes.

A systematic review found that structured walking programs effectively reduce HbA1c (average blood sugar) by 0.5% in diabetic patients. Walking may also lead to modest reductions in body mass index and diastolic blood pressure. However, supervised walking interventions seem to yield greater HbA1c improvements compared to unsupervised ones.

Another observational study concluded that Higher Waist Circumference and Waist to Hip Ratio (WHR) were associated with higher blood sugar. Walking more daily steps were linked to smaller waist circumference and lower BMI. The study confirms that walking may help reduce abdominal fat, leading to better blood sugar control.

Easy Ways to Increase Walking Speed in Your Daily Life

Here are some easy strategies to incorporate walking in your life.

  1. Walk in short bursts: Take walking breaks every hour at work.  Research confirms that just 5 minutes of movement per hour negates the harm of too much sitting. Walk for 5 mins after every meal you have during the day. Walk when you’re on the phone or waiting for appointments.
  2. Change how you commute: When going to your nearest supermarket or mall, walk if the distance is closer.  Even one-way walking adds activity and reduces stress. A study published in Environmental Science & Technology found if just 10% of the population change their mode of travel to walking or biking, the emissions savings would be around 4% of lifecycle CO2 emissions from all car travel.
  3. Take your pet for a walk: Add speed to your walks by taking your pet with you for a walk. A study that analyzed whether getting a dog leads to more walking for pleasure within neighbourhoods concluded that acquiring a dog was associated with 35.9 more minutes of weekly walking compared to people who didn’t get a dog. While dog ownership may encourage some people to walk more, other factors like pre-existing walking habits and changing walking intentions also play a role.
  4. Join a walking or a running group for motivation: Join a group of walkers or runners to increase your speed of walking/running. Researchers at the Universities at Zurich and France conclude that walking in groups balances social interaction needs with faster movement.
  5. Use fitness apps or wearables to track your progress: Use a pedometer or fitness app to set walking goals and track your progress. A study in the Nurses’ Health Study showed walking at a brisk pace (faster than 20 minutes per mile) was linked with a 41% lower risk of type 2 diabetes.

Create your personalized walking plan 

The American Heart Association suggests the following to personalize walking plans with these Walking 101 tips.

Start slow and gradually increase: Use the talk test to judge pace and adjust your speed depending on how comfortable you feel to talk during walking. Aim for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity walking weekly, starting from 15 minutes daily.

Track your progress: Wear a pedometer and increase steps from 5,000 to 10,000 daily. Schedule walking days on your calendar and keep a walking log recording duration, distance, and feelings.

Set realistic and specific goals: Choose goals based on your personal motivations, like weight loss or energy boost. Start small and gradually increase difficulty, like walking longer or faster.

Warm up and cool down: Always, begin with slow walking and stretches before intensifying. Perform the cool down stretches after your walk, focusing on hamstrings, calves, hips, and chest.

Maintain safe walking practices: Replace your worn-out shoes every 3-6 months (350-500 miles). Use proper walking form with good posture and natural stride length. Always, consult a medical provider if you have chronic health conditions.

Wrap up 

Walking offers a simple yet powerful tool for managing and potentially preventing type 2 diabetes. Recent research highlights the significant impact of walking speed on diabetes risk, with faster walking speeds translating to a reduced risk of developing the condition. The benefits extend beyond diabetes management, encompassing improved blood sugar control, cardiovascular health, weight management, and overall well-being. Implementing practical strategies like incorporating short bursts of walking, altering commute habits, joining active groups, and tracking progress can easily enhance your walking routine. Remember, small steps add up to big strides in improving your health. Lace up your shoes, pick up the pace, and walk your way to a healthier future.

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