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Walking at 3km per hour cuts risk of Type 2 diabetes by 15pc

About four million people in Britain have Type 2 diabetes
About four million people in Britain have Type 2 diabetes - monkeybusinessimages/iStockphoto

Walking at a pace of 3km per hour (1.86 mph) or more could lower the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by at least 15 per cent, a study has found.

Experts looked at the medical records of half a million people and found that the quicker people walked on average the lower their risk of developing diabetes.

The findings, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, found the risk of diabetes fell for every kilometre per hour faster someone walked on average.

A lack of exercise and being overweight are among the factors that increase someone’s risk of developing the disease as they age, but researchers have now quantified how much someone can reduce their relative risk based on their walking speed.

Those who walked at a pace of between 3km and 5km per hour, which is considered “an average or normal walking speed”, reduced the risk of Type 2 diabetes by 15 per cent, compared with those who walked at a “strolling” pace of less than 3km an hour.

Fairly brisk walking at a speed of between 5km and 6km per hour, which is about 3.1 to 3.7 mph, cut the risk of diabetes by 24 per cent, while a fast-paced stride of more than 6km per hour reduced the risk by 39 per cent, which is equal to 2.24 fewer cases for every 100 people.

About four million people in Britain have Type 2 diabetes, which is 6 per cent of the population.

Researchers from Imperial College London, the Semnan University of Medical Sciences in Iran and Oslo New University College tracked more than 500,000 people from the UK, USA, and Japan, for up to 11 years.

They said every km per hour faster that people walked was associated with a 9 per cent lower risk of Type 2 diabetes.

‘Faster speeds encouraged’

Dr Ahmad Jayedi, lead author from Semnan University of Medical Sciences, Iran, said: “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.”

The researchers said that the faster people walked, the more steps they would take, and the more likely they were to be fitter and healthier overall, which could in part explain the reduced risk.

‘Walk at suitable pace’

Neil Gibson, senior physical activity adviser at Diabetes UK, said the “study highlights what we already know, that being physically active, which can include brisk walking, can help lower a person’s risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and that increasing the intensity of activity, such as by walking faster, gives greater overall health benefits”.

“Walking is cost-free, simple and for most people can be integrated into regular activities like getting to work, shopping and visiting friends,” he added.

“While progressing to a faster pace is usually recommended for greater health gains, it’s important that people walk at a pace that they can manage and is suitable for them.”