A new systematic review and meta-analysis found that the risk of type 2 diabetes decreased significantly at walking speeds of 4 km/h or above.
Taking fairly brisk or brisk walks was associated with a significantly reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes in adults, according to new research published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.1 The findings were also independent of total physical activity volume or time spent walking each day.
Type 2 diabetes prevention programs typically include physical activity and structured exercise programs due to their positive effects on glycemic control. Walking is one of the most popular and easiest types of exercises, but the ideal walking speed to lower risk of type 2 diabetes has not been identified.
“Walking speed is a sensitive and reliable measure of overall health condition and a vital sign for functional capacity,” the authors wrote. “Evidence suggests that faster gait speed can lead to a greater physiological response and, thus, may be associated with more favorable health benefits than slow walking.”
A team of investigators from Semnan University of Medical Sciences, Imperial College London, and Oslo New University College conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis to examine the association between walking speed and the risk of type 2 diabetes. Data was gathered from PubMed, Scopus, CENTRAL, and Web of Sciences until May 30, 2023.
The meta-analysis included 10 cohort studies with 508121 participants conducted in the US, UK, and Japan between 1999 and 2022. The included studies were all population-based cohorts, of which 2 were conducted in females, 2 in males, and the remaining in both female and male. The median follow-up time was 8 years.
Investigators found that average and fairly brisk walking were modestly associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes. However, brisk/striding walking was associated with a 39% lower risk of developing the disease, which is equal to 2.24 fewer cases per 100 patients. The risk of type 2 diabetes decreased significantly at walking speeds of 4 km/h or above.
Additionally, there was no significant or credible difference across subgroups based on adjustment for the total volume of physical activity and time spent walking per day. Researchers said that this suggests walking speed may be more important than total amount of time spent walking.
Study limitations include that studies in the review were rated as having a serious bias, that findings could be subject to reverse causality bias, and that potential impacts of residual confounding should be considered even though adjustment for the total volume of physical activity or time spent per day did not indicate significant subgroup differences.
“[T]he present meta-analysis of cohort studies suggested 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,” the authors concluded. “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.”