(RxWiki News) Physical activity can help to protect against disease, and vigorous exercise isn't the only kind that can improve your health.
A recent study examined the effects of walking on the heart health of people who had high blood sugar and were at risk for heart disease.
The researchers found that people who took more steps per day were significantly less likely to develop a heart health problem.
"Walk more to stay active."
Dr. Thomas Yates, of the NIHR Leicester-Loughborough Diet, Lifestyle, and Physical Activity Biomedical Research Unit, led this study on how walking affected heart health.
Higher levels of physical activity have been linked to improved health and a reduced risk of developing several diseases, including diabetes.
This study focused on the effects of walking in people at risk for heart disease who have impaired glucose tolerance, or high blood sugar due to insulin resistance.
The researchers analyzed data from NAVIGATOR, a trial that involved 9,306 participants with impaired glucose tolerance and either existing heart disease or at least one heart disease risk factor.
The participants had been recruited from 40 countries from January 2002 to January 2004.
The researchers gathered information on each patient's health status and medical history.
Some groups of patients were assigned to a lifestyle modification program designed to help with weight loss by limiting dietary fat and increasing physical activity.
The participants' exercise was measured each year using a pedometer, a device that counts the steps a person takes each day.
The researchers followed up with the participants for an average of six years, specifically looking for any heart health-related events like heart attack or stroke.
The researchers found that 531 heart health events occurred during the course of the study.
They also found that the participants' risk of heart problems was inversely related to how many steps they took at baseline and how many additional steps they took during the follow-up period.
Based on the number of average daily steps that each participant took at the beginning of the study, each 2,000 step increment was linked to a 10 percent lower risk of a heart health problem.
Additionally, during the follow-up period, adding 2,000 steps per day was linked to an 8 percent decrease in the risk of heart problems.
On the other hand, decreasing daily steps by 2,000 increased participants' risk of heart problems by 8 percent.
The level of risk was unaffected by factors like a participant's BMI (body mass index) — a measure used to determine if someone is overweight, underweight or a healthy weight.
The authors of this study concluded that walking more was linked to improved heart health in patients with glucose intolerance and heart disease risk factors.
They also noted that this study showed the importance of preventing a decline in physical activity levels in older populations.
The study was published in The Lancet on December 19.
Novartis Pharmaceuticals funded the research. Some of the authors have declared conflicts of interest with medical organizations and pharmaceutical companies.