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Daily change in pace cuts diabetes risk: global study

Walking faster could lower your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, according to a recent worldwide analysis and the first global study of its kind, which found people who walked faster than 3km an hour were less likely to develop the condition, and those with a speedier stride of more than 6km an hour lowered their risk by 39%.

The pooled data analysis of the available evidence was published online in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

According to the International Diabetes Federation, there are about 537m people with diabetes worldwide, and it has been predicted that cases could top 1.3bn by 2050, reports The Independent.

While physical activity is associated with a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes, the researchers from Imperial College London, the University of Medical Sciences in Iran and Oslo New University College in Norway set out to ascertain the optimal walking speed to stave off the disease.

The team looked at 10 studies published between 1999 and 2022, which included follow-up periods of between three and 11 years.

Some 508 121 adult patients were included in total, from across the UK, Japan and the US.

The scientists found walking at between 3km and 5km per hour reduced the risk of type 2 diabetes by 15% when compared with walking at a pace of less than 3km an hour.

The risk reduced further with a faster pace, with a fairly brisk walk of between 5km and 6km associated with a 24% lower risk.

Those who walked at a speed of higher than 6km an hour had a 39% lower risk of developing the condition.

“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,” the researchers said.

They acknowledge some limitations of their work, including that three studies included in their analysis were rated as having a moderate risk of bias, while the remaining seven were rated as having a serious risk.

They also said people with a faster walking speed are more likely to be fitter, with greater muscle mass and better overall health.

Study details

Walking speed and the risk of type 2 diabetes: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Ahmad Jayedi, Mahdieh-Sadat Zargar, Alireza Emadi, Dagfinn Aune.

Published in British Journal of Sports Medicine on 14 November 2023


To investigate the association between walking speed and the risk of type 2 diabetes.

Systematic review and meta-analysis.

Data sources
PubMed, Scopus, CENTRAL and Web of Science to 30 May 2023.

Eligibility criteria for selecting studies
We included cohort studies that explored the association between walking speed and the risk of type 2 diabetes in adults. We used random-effects meta-analyses to calculate relative risk (RR) and risk difference (RD). We rated the credibility of subgroup differences and the certainty of evidence using the Instrument to assess the Credibility of Effect Modification ANalyses (ICEMAN) and Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation (GRADE) tools, respectively.

Ten cohort studies were included. Compared with easy/casual walking (<3.2 km/hour), the RR of type 2 diabetes was 0.85 (95% CI 0.70 to 1.00); RD=0.86 (95% CI 1.72 to 0) fewer cases per 100 patients; n=4, GRADE=low) for average/normal walking (3.2–4.8 km/hour), 0.76 (95% CI 0.65 to 0.87); RD=1.38 (95% CI 2.01 to 0.75) fewer cases per 100 patients; n=10, GRADE=low) for fairly brisk walking (4.8–6.4 km/hour) and 0.61 (95% CI 0.49 to 0.73; RD=2.24 (95% CI 2.93 to 1.55) fewer cases per 100 patients; n=6, GRADE=moderate) for brisk/striding walking (>6.4 km/hour). 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. Dose–response analysis suggested that the risk of type 2 diabetes decreased significantly at a walking speed of 4 km/h and above.

Low to moderate certainty evidence, mainly from studies with a high risk of bias, suggests that walking at faster speeds is associated with a graded decrease in the risk of type 2 diabetes.


British Journal of Sports Medicine article – Walking speed and the risk of type 2 diabetes: a systematic review and meta-analysis (Open access)


The Independent article – Doctors reveal the one daily change people can make to lower diabetes risk (Open access)


See more from MedicalBrief archives:


Walking faster more beneficial than walking further – Australian cohort study


Under 5 000 daily steps still beneficial, say experts


Short walks could halve premature death risk – Spanish study


Loss of heart function in type 2 diabetes reduced by high-intensity exercise






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