Diabetes Does Not Like Walking

Diabetes risk higher among recent immigrants living in least walkable neighborhoods

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Walking is a cheap and easy way to get the exercise you need. Going on a daily walk can protect you from many health problems, including diabetes. But what if your neighborhood is not a good place to walk?

People who lived in neighborhoods that are less conducive to walking were more likely to develop diabetes than those in neighborhoods that are good for walking, according to recent findings.

"Take regular walks to stay healthy."

The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends that people should exercise about 30 minutes a day at least 5 days a week. For many people, walking is one of the easiest ways to get this amount of exercise. Some people, however, do not live in the best neighborhoods for walking.

Gillian L. Booth, MD, of Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, and colleagues wanted to see if people living in less walkable neighborhoods were more likely to develop diabetes.

They found that there was a lower risk of diabetes in the most walkable neighborhoods and a higher risk in the least walkable neighborhoods.

Male immigrants in the least walkable neighborhoods were 1.58 times more likely to develop diabetes than those in the most walkable. Female immigrants in the least walkable neighborhoods were 1.67 times more likely to develop diabetes than those in the most walkable neighborhoods.

Obesity is a leading cause of diabetes in the United States. Walking may be one of the easiest ways to curb obesity and prevent diabetes.

"Many people don't believe that walking is helpful in fighting obesity but I'm not one of those people," said Jim Crowell, owner and head trainer at Integrated Fitness.

"I always tell my clients that they need to be active, and walking is a great way to start that process. Many of my clients begin their healthy transformation by walking because it is a safe way to reintroduce exercise into their lives without really needing guidance from a coach," said Crowell, who was not involved in the study. 

Long-term residents had a lower diabetes risk than recent immigrants, but the walkability of their neighborhood still affected their diabetes risk.

Diabetes risk grew even more if people were poor, regardless of whether they were immigrants or long-term residents.

Rates of diabetes were about three times higher among recent immigrants living in low-income and low-walkability areas compared to immigrants living in high-income and high-walkability areas (16.2 per 1,000 versus 5.1 per 1,000).

The research included 214,882 recent immigrants and 1,024,380 long-term residents of Toronto, Canada. Participants were between 30 and 64 years of age. None of the participants had diabetes at the beginning of the study.

The study was published September 17 in Diabetes Care, a journal of the American Diabetes Association.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
September 23, 2012
Last Updated:
September 24, 2012