How many steps people with diabetes should walk for managing blood sugar levels | Health - Hindustan Times
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How many steps people with diabetes should walk for managing blood sugar levels

By, New Delhi
Jun 16, 2023 05:57 PM IST

Walking can improve heart health, reduce stress and boost mood in people with diabetes. Here are the ideal number of steps people with diabetes should walk.

Making appropriate lifestyle changes is one of the most effective ways to manage diabetes and avoid its various complications. Walking every day, whether at a brisk pace or a gentle pace can help improve glycaemic control in people with type 2 diabetes. There are several studies that vouch by the positive effects of physical activity in regulating blood sugar levels in diabetics. Regular physical activity must be complemented with a balanced diet, medication and regular monitoring of blood sugar levels for best results. Tracking the steps has become an effective motivation to move throughout the day and monitor our progress. It is also like a game to count your steps and achieve a fitness target that can also boost one's confidence. While it is 30-45 minutes' walk that health experts recommend for people with diabetes, here's the number of steps people with diabetes should walk for diabetes management. (Also read: Minimum number of steps you should walk to avoid lifestyle diseases; fitness experts reveal)

There are several studies that vouch by the positive effects of physical activity in regulating blood sugar levels in diabetics. (Unsplash)
There are several studies that vouch by the positive effects of physical activity in regulating blood sugar levels in diabetics. (Unsplash)

"Managing blood sugar levels is crucial for individuals with diabetes. Regular physical activity, such as walking, can be an effective strategy. Approximately, 10,000 steps per day helps while it may vary depending on individual factors, but it's important to focus on the duration and intensity of exercise for effective blood sugar management," Dr Rahul Chirag, Consultant - Internal medicine, CARE Hospitals, Hi-Tec City, Hyderabad told HT Digital.

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Start with 5K steps to begin with

"As we are aware that walking is a very effective form of aerobic exercise with numerous health benefits for everyone especially people with diabetes. (Helmrichet al.,1991; Manson et al.,1991; Hu et al., 1999). Brisk walking will help you keep your weight gain in check and increase the cardiovascular endurance resulting in lowering the risk of diabetes. According to American College of Sports Medicine and the American Diabetes Association, 30 minutes of walk at least five days per week will help to manage type 2 diabetes. The goal should be at least 10,000 steps but you can start with minimum 5000 steps daily. If not at a stretch you can divide it in intervals during the day," Priyanka Khanna (PT), Women's Health Physiotherapist and Lactation consultant at Cloudnine Group of Hospitals, Punjabi Bagh, New Delhi told HT Digital.

Split the walk to achieve the target

"Exercise plays an important role in managing diabetes. There are various types of exercise, both aerobic and anaerobic. One of the easiest exercises to do is walking. Walking at least 10,000 steps a day is ideal for diabetics or exercising for at least 30 minutes a day. If you have difficulty walking continuously, you can split it across the day, i.e., 10 minutes in the morning, 10 minutes in the afternoon, and 10 minutes in the evening. Step counting is easily doable nowadays because most of us have a smartphone with a fitness tracker that allows us to count the number of steps that we take in a day. However, type 1 DM in addition to the elderly and patients with severe neuropathy, exercise only after consultation with your diabetologist or endocrinologist," Nithya Abraham, Clinical Assistant Professor, Endocrinology and Diabetes, Amrita Hospital, Kochi said in an interview with HT Digital.

"Managing type 2 diabetes and exercising regularly go hand in hand. Get moving is a mantra for anyone with type 2 diabetes, and one of the best ways to do that is by walking and tracking the steps you take each day. Health advocates, along with various fitness apps and devices, encourage individuals to strive for a daily goal of 10,000 steps," says Dr Ashok Kumar Jhingan, Senior Director, Centre for Diabetes, Thyroid, Obesity & Endocrinology, BLK-Max Super Speciality Hospital.

What studies say about benefits of walking for people with diabetes

"Studies conducted in India have shown the benefits of physical activity in managing diabetes. One study published in the Indian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism found that walking for 30 to 45 minutes per day, five days a week, helped improve glycaemic control and reduce the risk of complications in individuals with type 2 diabetes. Another study conducted by the Indian Diabetes Prevention Program (IDPP) demonstrated that a structured lifestyle intervention, which included regular physical activity like walking, led to a 26% reduction in the incidence of diabetes among high-risk individuals in India. The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and the World Health Organization (WHO) recommend engaging in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week for adults. This can be achieved through activities like brisk walking, cycling, swimming, or dancing. Walking is a convenient and accessible option for many people," says Dr Rahul.

"The health expert however says instead of focusing solely on a specific number of steps, it is generally recommended for people with diabetes to engage in regular physical activity for a certain duration and intensity to help manage blood sugar levels effectively. Additionally, incorporating resistance or strength training exercises at least two days a week is recommended to improve overall strength and insulin sensitivity. These activities could involve weightlifting, using resistance bands, or bodyweight exercises," adds Dr Rahul.

Health benefits of walking for people with diabetes

Dr Jhingan elaborates on health benefits of walking for people suffering from diabetes:

1. Better blood sugar control: When you walk your body uses energy in the form of glucose (sugar). In individuals with type 2 diabetes, the blood sugar levels in the body become excessively high; however, engaging in physical exercise aids in utilizing that sugar, thereby assisting in its reduction. In fact, regular walking can help improve your A1C.

2. Weight management: You need to burn more calories than you consume to lose weight, and a healthy diet is just as important as exercise. Walking serves as an excellent tool for sustaining weight loss.

3. Improved heart health: People with diabetes are two to four times more likely to develop cardiovascular disease than people who don’t have diabetes. Walking can also help lower blood pressure and reduce bad cholesterol.

4. Improved mood and stress relief: Walking releases endorphins, feel-good hormones that can lift your mood and relieve stress. People with diabetes are at greater risk of becoming depressed, and walking can be one tool for caring for your emotional health.

5. Boosts endurance: Engaging in regular walks enhances your level of fitness and endurance.

6. Strengthens bones and muscles: Consistently engaging in walking routines enhances power and strengthens bones, thereby aiding in injury prevention and enhancing athletic performance.

Number of steps to walk as we grow old

"The promotion of achieving a daily goal of 10,000 steps through walking has long been advocated as a healthy and attainable target for adults. Nevertheless, it is important to recognize that this number may not be suitable for everyone, especially considering various age groups. As we grow older, our bodies undergo changes, and meeting this target may pose increased challenges. There are no hard and fast rules to complete exactly 10,000 steps. It just denotes a good number of steps to reap the benefits of walking. The ideal step count will vary depending on the individual’s age, sex, and physical fitness level. It’s important to set realistic goals and listen to your body," says Dr Jhingan.

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