More Steps Are Linked to Lower Risk of Diabetes and Hypertension

Research suggests that walking more is associated with better health. Here’s how to optimize your next stroll.

Close-up of shoes walking on road

Medically reviewed in September 2022

Updated on September 15, 2022

When it comes to physical activity, getting regular exercise is best for a number of reasons, from improved weight control to a lower risk for heart disease and some cancers. But if you’re finding it hard to squeeze in your routine walk, you’re not alone. Even the most dedicated walkers miss a session sometimes. 

Just remember not to let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Every little bit of exercise helps.

In fact, in one study of more than 1,900 middle-aged adults presented at a March 2020 American Heart Association conference, women had a 13 percent lower obesity risk with every additional 1,000 steps they took daily. What’s more, compared to those who walked the least, people who took the most daily steps had a 31 percent lower risk of high blood pressure—and a 43 percent lower diabetes risk. 

So, take that walk whenever you can. And if it helps you fit them in, divide your 30-minute walks into three 10-minute sessions. And for extra health perks? Try picking up the pace. 

The need for speed
Research suggests that people who walk faster enjoy more health benefits than those who walk at a more casual speed.

For example, in one 2018 analysis of more than 50,000 walkers published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, those who reported walking at an average pace were 20 percent less likely to die after an average of 9.2 years than those who reported walking more slowly. People who walked at a brisk or fast pace had a 24 percent lower risk of death. Pace likely mattered less for people who were younger, already physically fit, or doing other exercise.

Walking quickly may boost your cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF), as well. (CRF is basically just a fancy way of saying how your heart and lungs perform during physical activity.) In fact, a 2018 study of roughly 122,000 patients published in JAMA Network Open found that the better a subject’s CRF, the lower their risk of dying over a median 8.4-year follow-up period. While elite performers had the highest survival probability, even people with below-average CRF fared significantly better than those in the lowest CRF group. 

So, even if you miss a few walks, don’t give up on your routine altogether. And when you do walk, try moving a little faster. Your heart will thank you.

Article sources open article sources

Ross R, Blair SN, Arena R, et al. Importance of assessing cardiorespiratory fitness in clinical practice: A case for fitness as a clinical vital sign: A scientific statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2016;134(24):e653-e699.
Mandsager K, Harb S, Cremer P, Phelan D, Nissen SE, Jaber W. Association of Cardiorespiratory Fitness With Long-term Mortality Among Adults Undergoing Exercise Treadmill Testing. JAMA Netw Open. 2018;1(6):e183605.
American Heart Association. More steps-per-day linked to significant reductions in diabetes and high blood pressure. Published March 5, 2020.
Stamatakis E, Kelly P, Strain T, Murtagh EM, Ding D, Murphy MH. Self-rated walking pace and all-cause, cardiovascular disease and cancer mortality: individual participant pooled analysis of 50 225 walkers from 11 population British cohorts. Br J Sports Med. 2018;52(12):761-768.
Nauman J, Khan MAB, Joyner MJ. Walking in the Fast Lane: High-Intensity Walking for Improved Fitness and Health Outcomes. Mayo Clin Proc. 2019;94(12):2378-80.

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