June 24, 2003 -- Need another reason to put your walking shoes on and hit the pavement? Walking not only lowers the risk of developing lifelong diseases like diabetes, but a new study shows it can cut the chance of dying in half for people who already have diabetes.
Regular physical activity like walking produces healthy benefits, such as reducing the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and death, among the general population. In addition, several studies have shown that regular physical activity can help people who already have diabetes keep their blood sugar under control.
But researchers say less is known about the long-term health benefits of walking for people with diabetes. People with diabetes are at increased risk for a variety of conditions, such as heart disease and stroke that raise the risk of death.
In this study, published in the June 23 issue of The Archives of Internal Medicine, CDC researchers compared the risk of heart-related death or death from any cause among some 2,900 adults with diabetes.
They found that compared with adults who didn't walk at all, those who walked at least two hours per week had a 39% lower risk of death from any cause and a 34% lower risk of heart-related death.
People who were even more physically active and walked at least three hours a week had an even greater reduction in risk with a 54% lower risk of death from any cause and 53% lower risk of heart-related death.
Researchers say the results suggest that one death per year may be preventable for every 61 people with diabetes who walk at least two hours a week.
In an editorial that accompanies the study, Frank Hu, MD, PhD, of the Harvard School of Public Health and JoAnn Manson, MD, DrPH, of the division of preventive medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, say the finding has tremendous potential for reducing the risks commonly associated with diabetes.
The benefits of a moderate amount of walking appear to be even greater than those achieved through current diabetes treatments, including tight blood pressure control, lowering cholesterol, and strict blood sugar control, they write.
"For the vast majority of the population, the benefits of walking are enormous, with little or no harm. So far, walking is probably the 'best medicine' for both prevention and treatment of diabetes mellitus," they conclude.
SOURCE: The Archives of Internal Medicine, June 23, 2003.