According to research recently published in the British Medical Journal, simply taking more steps every day not only helps ward off obesity but also reduces the risk of diabetes. While several studies have shown that physical activity reduces body mass index and insulin resistance – an early stage in the development of diabetes – this is the first study to estimate the effects of long-term changes in daily step count on insulin sensitivity.
The research, which was conducted by the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute in Melbourne, involved 592 adults who took part in a national study to map diabetes levels across Australia between 2000 and 2005. At the start of the study, participants completed a detailed diet and lifestyle questionnaire and underwent a thorough health examination. They were also given a pedometer and instructed how to use it. Participants were monitored again five years later. Other lifestyle factors, such as diet, alcohol and smoking were taken into account.
Researchers found that a higher daily step count over five years was associated with a lower body mass index, lower waist to hip ratio, and better insulin sensitivity. These associations were independent of dietary energy intake and appeared to be largely due to a change in adiposity (fatness) over those years, say the authors.