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Walk Your Way to Health

Looking for an easy way to get in shape? You might want to consider walking. This form of physical activity can have a significant impact on your overall health, especially when combined with a helpful tool such as a pedometer.

Researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine recently completed a study that discovered that walking with a pedometer—a small device that clips on to your waistband or a pocket—helps people stay active. The study’s lead author, Dena Bravata, M.D., stated that participants who wore pedometers increased their overall physical activity by 27%.

The increase in physical activity opened the door for other changes, too. Bravata found that study participants’ blood pressure, risk of stroke, and weight dropped when they walked more. According to the National Institute on Aging, walking with or without a pedometer can have a marked impact on maintaining muscle mass and flexibility as you get older.

"When used properly, pedometers can have significant health benefits," states Michael See, Exercise Physiologist at Joslin Diabetes Center. But See cautions that pedometers are not for everyone. For those who are just starting a new physical fitness plan, it is more important that appropriate goals are set, rather than relying on the pedometer to indicate progress with your new program. That means that you must start slowly, and with your doctor’s approval if you have diabetes.

Physical fitness has been shown to lower glucose in people with diabetes, but be sure that for every thirty-five minutes of exercise you engage in that you consume fifteen grams of carbohydrate to avoid low blood glucose (sugar) episodes. This means that it’s crucial to carry at least one snack with the appropriate carbohydrate content with you everywhere you go.

In addition to the benefits already mentioned, walking is also one of the safest ways to engage in physical activity. Because there are no machines required for walking, and certainly not much of a learning curve, the risk of injury during walking is very low. Moreover, walking is a form of physical fitness that you can engage in anywhere, at almost any time—and you don’t need a membership to a gym, or much money to get started.

Just be sure to talk to your diabetes care team about your desire to start a walking program. You can discuss the kind of goals you’re hoping to achieve, and how much walking you should engage in each day. It may also be helpful to get the most up-to-date readings on your cholesterol, A1C, and lipids prior to starting your fitness routine so that you can compare the "before" and "after" numbers.

Page last updated: September 01, 2014