Health & Wellness

Stepping Up to Diabetes—The Power of Walking

We all know regular exercise is an essential part of managing and preventing diabetes and staying healthy. Still, many people are scared off by the idea of exercise—often equating it with running, going to the gym every day, or breaking a heavy sweat. Some don’t know where to start. Older adults may worry about injury or overdoing it. 

Three senior women walking outdoors

But being and staying active may be easier than you think. A growing body of research suggests that the simple act of walking can lead to better health and may help prevent diabetes. 

Benefits of Walking  

Those who are active more often have a lower chance of developing diabetes and walking is a great way to be active. In fact, the more you walk—especially at a more intense, faster pace—the lower your diabetes risk. Try to work your way to 10,000 steps per day or at least 30 minutes a day to cut your risk of type 2 diabetes. If you have trouble walking 30 minutes at a time, try walking in smaller amounts throughout the day, such as 10 minutes in the morning, afternoon, and evenings. 

Higher daily step counts can make it more likely that you’ll reach your blood glucose (blood sugar) targets, which is a good reason to make walking a part of your daily routine.

Making Daily Walking a Priority 

The good news is, most people can walk to stay active. The risk of injury is low when you walk and you don’t need anything to walk besides a pair of comfortable and supportive shoes. Walking also gets you out of the house and gives you time away from your work , which is good for your mental health too.

While it helps your blood glucose (blood sugar) levels, walking can also improve your:

  • Weight 
  • Bone and muscle strength
  • Balance
  • Blood pressure
  • Cholesterol
  • Heart health 
  • Concentration
  • Mental outlook by lowering stress levels and anxiety

Make a plan to walk more. One of the first steps is to know how many steps you take. You can wear a pedometer or get a fitness tracker app, which are available on most smartphones to  count your steps. Once you know how many steps you take, you can work toward increasing that amount to a realistic goal.

Use this worksheet as a guide and to track your progress. You can track of how long you walk and/or how many steps you take. 

Always start slowly and increase to a brisk walk. Be sure to cool down with a slow walk at the end. If you are just starting out and have questions, or if you have a foot injury, open sore or ulcer, talk with your health care provider before beginning your walking plan. 

Adding More Steps to Your Day

Here are some easy ways to increase your step count each day. You might try to:

  • Walk during your lunch break.
  • Walk and talk. If you’re on the phone a lot, use that time to stand up and add some steps.
  • Pick the farthest parking spot when you head to the office or store and return your shopping cart instead of leaving it near your car.
  • Use the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator.
  • Clean your living space. Household chores can get your body moving and boost your steps.
  • If you have one, take your dog for an extra walk or take a longer route.
  • Schedule walking dates with friends.