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Strolling May Improve Risk Factors for Diabetes (and Cancer)

Older Man walking with Little GirlEvidence is clear that regular moderate physical activity lowers risk for type 2-diabetes, along with cancer. Now a study suggests that even light physical activity may improve metabolic abnormalities for people at high risk of diabetes, which share many risk factors to cancers. The study was published in the International Journal of Obesity,

Along with sharing specific risk factors, including insulin resistance, type 2-diabetes increases risk for several cancers, including those of the liver, colon and endometrium.

The study included 68 sedentary, overweight and obese adults with pre-diabetes that were randomly assigned to two groups. Both groups attended educational sessions at the beginning of the three month study. One group attended a supervised walking program that was 60 minutes, three times per week.

All participants were given accelerometers – devices that measure and record amounts and levels of activity – for the duration of the study.

The walking pace in the supervised program was about 2 to 2.5 miles per hour. Moderate walking is about 3 to 4 miles per hour. Yet, even with that activity level, the walking group showed significant improvements in insulin resistance and lower LDL (the unhealthy cholesterol) and those changes were not related to weight loss.

Researchers then grouped all participants according to how many steps they averaged: Compared to those with the fewest steps, those with the most steps had a 10% reduction in visceral fat. Visceral fat is found deep within the abdomen and has been linked to increased risk for type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

According to the authors these results show that even very low physical activity intensity can have clinical importance – reducing visceral fat, cholesterol and insulin resistance, all of which lower risk for type 2 diabetes. 

Source: K-H Herzig et al. "Light physical activity determined by a motion sensor decreases insulin resistance, improves lipid homeostasis and reduces visceral fat in high-risk subjects: PreDiabEx study RCT." International Journal of Obesity advance online publication 7 January 2014.

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