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Taking 10,000 Steps a Day May Lower Diabetes Risk

Study Shows Building Up to 10,000 Steps a Day May Lead to Weight Loss and Better Insulin Sensitivity

“Enormous Implications” continued...

“Whenever you can, walk,” Bernstein says.“If you walk 10 blocks instead of taking a bus and do it in both directions, that is already one mile."

Doctors need to talk the talk and patients need to walk the walk, says Joel Zonszein, MD, a professor of clinical medicine at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and the director of the Clinical Diabetes Center at Montefiore Medical Center, both in New York.

“Exercise is always healthy and doctors always tell patients ‘you need to exercise more’, and this study shows that persistent exercise over five years is beneficial,” he says.

“Patients who continue to exercise do better,” he says.

Making lifestyle changes and sticking with them is not always easy, he says. “Some people like the gym, and some people like to walk, so we need to give an exercise prescription and follow up to see what happens, and then maybe adjust the dose."

Is It the Weight Loss or Exercise That Lowers Diabetes Risk?

Lawrence Cheskin, MD, director of the Johns Hopkins Weight Management Center at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, says the new study results are likely generalizable to the U.S. population.

“We know that any time you lose weight, you will have improvements in insulin sensitivity and one of the hallmarks of diabetes is insulin resistance or insensitivity,” he says.

But taking extra steps does not always lead to weight loss, he says.

“I wouldn't conclude that if you start taking a few more steps a day, you are going to make diabetes go away,” he says. “That is a reach, but losing weight will help prevent or treat diabetes.”

Sheri R. Colberg, PhD, an exercise physiologist at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va., and an American Diabetes Association spokeswoman, says taking extra steps can help improve diabetes control even in the absence of weight loss.

“It’s a good idea to walk or exercise more, but this may not necessarily lead to weight loss, but it will help improve insulin action and diabetes control,” she says. Physical activity may lead to changes in body fat composition instead of weight loss, and these changes may help prevent or treat diabetes.

Terry Dwyer, author of the study, says in an email to WebMD,“There is evidence that routine changes that are not too difficult to introduce if a person is motivated such as use of cars -- switching to walking when possible -- or climbing steps at work rather than taking the elevator, can help. A more aggressive approach involving taking up an exercise program can also, of course, help.”

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