There are many published studies on walking with diabetes, and most showed a benefit. The list below has been categorized into type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes, and prediabetes/overweight/obese and provides a broad sense of some of the scientific research supporting the benefits of walking.
- Type 2 Diabetes:A 2012 study of 201 people with type 2 diabetes found that every additional 2,600 steps of walking each day was associated with a 0.2% lower A1c. For reference, 2,600 steps is a little over a mile (about 20 minutes walking at a normal pace). In an interesting 2005 study of 179 patients with type 2 diabetes, medication costs, insulin usage, and physical activity were tracked over a two-year period. Over that time, taking a three-mile daily walk (about an hour per day) was estimated to reduce drug costs by $550 and other medical costs by $700. The number of patients on insulin therapy also fell by a compelling 25%. And a small 2012 study examined the emotional effects of walking in individuals with type 2 diabetes – in the 16 patients that participated in the study, 20 minute walks were associated with significant positive influences on psychological well-being.
- Type 1 Diabetes:Though few studies have tested walking in people with type 1 diabetes, the results do seem positive, particularly after meals. A 2012 study examined 12 patients with type 1 diabetes over 88 hours. Those who walked after meals had approximately one half the glucose excursion compared to those who did not walk after meals. Interestingly, the same study found a similar glycemic benefit in those without diabetes. The researchers concluded, “Walking significantly impacts postprandial [after meal] glucose excursions in healthy populations and in those with type 1 diabetes.”
- Prediabetes/Overweight/Obese: A 2007 analysis, which included five studies examining walking and the risk of type 2 diabetes (data from a staggering 301,221 people), found that those who walked regularly (about 20 minutes per day) had a 30% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetescompared to those who did almost no walking at all. A 1999 analysis of the Nurses Health Study also examined the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, this time in over 70,000 female nurses over an eight-year period. Walking was strongly associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes, and the speed was important – compared to those who walked at an “easy pace” (longer than 30 minutes to walk one mile), those who walked at a “normal” pace (20-30 minutes per mile) had a 14% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Walking at a brisk pace (faster than 20 minutes per mile) was linked with a 41% lower risk of type 2 diabetes.
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