Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.
February 08, 2022
3 min read

2,000 extra steps per day may decrease diabetes risk among older women by 12%

Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.
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The more steps that older women took per day, the more they lowered their risk for developing type 2 diabetes, according to findings published in Diabetes Care.

Researchers estimated that every 1,000 extra steps taken per day was associated with a 6% reduction in diabetes risk.

Association between taking an additional 2,000 steps per day and incident diabetes.
Garduno AC, et al. Diabetes Care. 2022;doi:10.2337/dc21-1202.

“What that means is, if the average older adult were to take 2,000 more steps every day in addition to what they were already doing, they might expect a 12% reduction in diabetes risk,” Alexis C. Garduno, MPH, an epidemiology doctoral student at the San Diego State University and University of California, San Diego, said in a press release.

They also found that higher intensity walking was associated with even more reductions in diabetes risk.

Alexis C. Garduno

The researchers initially considered there might be an ideal threshold of steps per day that people should take to prevent diabetes, John Bellettiere, PhD, MPH, an assistant professor of epidemiology at the Herbert Wertheim School of Public Health and Human Longevity Science at the University of California, San Diego, told Healio.

However, “there was no magic threshold,” he said. “No matter how many steps per day one takes, increasing your steps was associated with a lower risk for diabetes.”

Garduno, Bellettiere and colleagues conducted a prospective study of 4,838 women aged 65 years or older without diagnosed diabetes at baseline who were enrolled in the Objective Physical Activity and Cardiovascular Health study. Participants wore an accelerometer to measure their daily steps. They were instructed to wear the device 24 hours per day for 1 week, except when bathing or swimming. Participants also kept a nightly sleep diary. The researchers used the data to calculate participants’ mean steps per day and compare this to the incidence of diabetes. The women were followed for up to 6.9 years. Their mean age was 78.92 years; 51.4% of the women were aged 80 years or older. Also, 53.1% were white, 30.4% were Black and 16.6% were Hispanic.

Step frequency and intensity

During a median follow-up of 5.7 years, 8.1% of the participants developed diabetes at a rate of 16.3 cases per 1,000 patient-years, according to Garduno and colleagues. The average number of steps taken per day was 3,729, of which 1,875 steps were of light intensity and 1,854 were of moderate to vigorous intensity. The greatest number of steps taken per minute within a 30-minute period was 36, the researchers reported.

Among the 25% of women with the fewest steps per day, 75% were aged 80 years or older. These women were also more likely to be white, had poor self-rated health, scored below average for physical functioning and had three or more comorbidities. Of the participants with the most steps per day, 4,914 steps or more, 72% were younger than aged 80 years, were more likely to have graduated college, reported excellent or very good health, scored above average for physical functioning, drank more than one alcoholic drink per week and had fewer total comorbidities, according to the researchers.

Risk reduction

Overall, taking more steps per day was associated with a decreased risk for diabetes among the participants (2,000 steps/day: HR = 0.86; 95% CI, 0.8–0.92), Garduno and colleagues reported. However, the association was weaker among those taking lower-intensity steps (HR = 0.87; 95% CI, 0.66-1.15) compared with moderate to vigorous steps (HR = 0.83; 95% CI, 0.72-0.95).

The results indicate that slower walks or stepping at a slower intensity was not as helpful for preventing type 2 diabetes, Garduno told Healio.

“It would not surprise me if future studies showed that any amount of stepping may prevent type 2 diabetes in older adults,” she said.

However, additional research is needed to confirm this association.

“Women who are already active can benefit from increasing the number of steps they take per day,” Bellettiere said. “For older adults, it is never too early to get active. In fact, this recommendation would hold for any adult. Starting now is the best recommendation.”


Garduno AC, et al. Diabetes Care. 2022;doi:10.2337/dc21-1202.

Step up: walking may reduce type 2 diabetes risk for adults 65 and older. https://ucsdnews.ucsd.edu/pressrelease/walking-may-reduce-type-2-diabetes-risk-for-adults-65-older. Published Jan. 20, 2022. Accessed Jan. 31, 2022.