A new study shows that taking just 2000 steps a day can help reduce the risk of diabetes by up to 12%. What do we need to know about these findings—and how can we implement them into our practice?
2,000 More Steps a Day May Reduce Risk of Diabetes by 12%
In a new study published in Diabetes Care, researchers found that adults who take an extra 2,000 steps a day may reduce their risk of diabetes by 12%, showcasing that physical activity can play a significant role in preventing diabetes.
The data for this study came from the Women's Health Initiative, which followed 4,838 post-menopausal women aged 65 or older without diabetes. Their mean age was 78.92 years, and 51.4% of the women were aged 80 years or older. And of these participants, 53.1% were white, 30.4% were Black and 16.6% were Hispanic.
Participants wore an ActiGraph hip accelerometer to track steps taken per day, and they were instructed to wear the device 24 hours a day for one week, except for while bathing or swimming. The researchers then used the data from these devices to calculate participants’ mean steps per day and compared that data set to the incidence rate of diabetes. The participants were followed for up to 6.9 years.
According to their findings, participants who took more steps each day were less likely to develop diabetes. In fact, for every additional 2000 steps taken per day, the risk of diabetes decreased by 12%. On top of that, these results demonstrated a stronger association between moderate-to-vigorous-intensity (MV-intensity) step and decreased rates of diabetes. This is an important finding, as it shows that even small changes in activity level can have a big impact on health.
One of the study’s researchers, Alexis C. Garduno, from the Herbert Wertheim School of Public Health and Human Longevity Science at the University of California in San Diego, highlighted the need for regular activity to lower the risk of diabetes.
“It’s not enough for somebody to go on a walk once a week,” explained Garduno. “Our study indicates that regular stepping is indicative of lower diabetes risk in older adults.”
Beyond getting regular activity, age is an important factor to take into consideration when talking about moderate activity levels. When guiding your diabetic patients on incorporating regular stepping into their routine, consider how much physical and mental energy an older patient has as compared to a younger patient. It’s important to tailor your recommendations to each patient and look at what kind of physical activity and intensity level would work best for them.
The senior author of the study, John Bellettiere, PhD, MPH, noted that each groups of patients may require a different approach.
"Older adults may need to engage in more moderate-intensity activities than younger adults to achieve similar benefits," Dr. Bellettiere explained. This is something to keep in mind when advising patients on how much exercise they need to stay healthy. But given some of these key findings and results, tailoring treatment guidance and encouraging regular activity and stepping can help our patients reduce the risk of diabetes.
Garduno, Alexis C., Andrea Z. LaCroix, Michael J. LaMonte, David W. Dunstan, Kelly R. Evenson, Guangxing Wang, Chongzhi Di, Benjamin T. Schumacher, and John Bellettiere. “Associations of Daily Steps and Step Intensity with Incident Diabetes in a Prospective Cohort Study of Older Women: The OPACH Study.” Diabetes Care 45, no. 2 (2022): 339–47. https://doi.org/10.2337/dc21-1202.