People who are already on the way to
developing diabetes could significantly reduce their risk of having a heart
attack or stroke by walking for just an extra 20 minutes a day for a year,
scientists said on Friday.
A large international study of people with
a condition called impaired glucose tolerance (IGT) - a precursor to diabetes -
found that taking an extra 2000 steps a day over one year cut the risk of
serious heart illness by 8%.
IGT affects around 344 million people
worldwide, or almost 8% of adults, and this number is projected to rise to 472
million by 2030 as populations grow and age and unhealthy diets contribute to
increasing rates of diabetes."People with IGT have a greatly increased
risk of cardiovascular disease," said Thomas Yates of Britain's University
of Leicester, who led the research.
"While several studies have suggested
that physical activity is beneficially linked to health in those with IGT, this
is the first study to specifically quantify the extent to which change in
walking behaviour can modify the risk of heart disease, stroke and
cardiovascular-related deaths."Yates' team took data from a trial covering
more than 9 300 adults in 40 countries who had IGT and heart disease or at
least one cardiovascular risk factor.
All the participants were given a lifestyle
change program aimed at helping them lose weight and cut fat intake while
increasing physical activity to 150 minutes a week. Using a pedometer,
researchers recorded usual walking activity over a week both at the start of
the study and again 12 months later.
After adjusting for a wide range of
confounding factors including body mass index, smoking, diet and use of
medication, the researchers used statistical modelling to test the relationship
between the number of steps taken a day and the risk of subsequent heart
did the researchers find?
They found that for every 2000 additional
steps a day at the start of the study there was a 10% reduction in risk of
On top of this, the risk of heart disease
and so-called cardiovascular events like heart attacks and strokes was further
reduced by 8% for every extra 2000 steps a day between the start of the study
and 12 months later.
"These findings provide the strongest
evidence yet for the importance of physical activity in high risk populations
and will inform diabetes and cardiovascular disease prevention programs
worldwide," said Yates.
"Changing physical activity levels
through simply increasing the number of steps taken can substantially reduce
the risk of cardiovascular disease," he added, noting that the benefits of
extra walking showed up regardless of people's weight or the level of activity
they started at.
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