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To lower diabetes risk, go for a brisk walk

A new study finds that increasing walking speed rather than time could help keep diabetes at bay

Brisk walking is a moderate intensity physical activity which packs in benefits including weight loss, low stress and reduced risk of diabetes.(Unsplash/mhrezaa)

By Team Lounge

LAST PUBLISHED 29.11.2023  |  03:33 PM IST

Going for a brisk walk daily could turn out to have more benefits for you than helping you lose weight. According to a recent report published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine walking at a quicker pace could also significantly lower a person’s risk of type 2 diabetes. Researchers from the Semnan University of Medical Sciences in Semnan, Iran who conducted the study looked at long-term studies published in the last two decades, between 1999 and 2022, with follow-up periods between 3 and 11 years. They found 10 eligible studies that involved 508,121 adults from the United States, Japan, and the United Kingdom.

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Based on an analysis of the studies, the researchers shared a few interesting insights. The key findings being that to keep type 2 diabetes at bay, brisk walking was a far more effective option compared to relaxed walking or strolling. Some of the data they presented to support their claim show that at the lowest, walking quickly at a rate of 3.2 to 4.8km per hour compared to strolling at 3.2km per hour was associated with a 15% lower risk of type 2 diabetes, irrespective of the time spent walking. Speed matters more than distance covered. An even better option would be to aim for a speed of 6.4km per hour as it would bring down the risk by around 39%. This is equal to 2.24 fewer cases of type 2 diabetes in every 100 people. Every increase of 1 km of speed was associated with a 9% reduction in risk, the researchers claimed.

The study authors admit that the findings may have some limitations, especially so while considering that participants with faster walking speed may have been more likely to be physically active and have better cardiorespiratory fitness. Nevertheless, elaborating on their findings, the researchers wrote, “The present meta-analysis of cohort studies suggests that fairly brisk and brisk/striding walking, independent of the total volume of physical activity or time spent walking per day, may be associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes in adults." “While current strategies to increase total walking time are beneficial, it may also be reasonable to encourage people to walk at faster speeds to further increase the health benefits of walking," they further noted.

How to Power Walk

  1. Walk at a pace that’s a little faster than your comfort zone. 
  2. Set the pace of your walk depending on your purpose: weight loss, physical health, mental well-being. 
  3. Be mindful of your breath while walking. Breathe diaphragmatically instead of shallow breathing. 
  4. Swing your arms when you walk. Focusing on the upper body muscles will give you a good overall exercise. 
  5. Walking backwards is twice as beneficial as normal walking. It exercises a different set of muscles. 
  6. Try and walk on different terrain to improve your strength and balance

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