Prior to launching Forty Thousand Footsteps, I had not really considered my own risk of diabetes, let alone how anybody else who is more at risk, might deal with it. However, during my research relating to walking as an aid to digestive health, I stumbled upon a few studies that turned my head. I decided to conduct my own research of the information available online, however, I also remembered the particular specialty of someone I know personally. In my recent article, I was excited to introduce you to my good friend, Rajiv Gadvhi. Raj is a health coach and a diabetes type-2 expert so I was keen to discuss with him, how walking can be leveraged to reduce the risk of diabetes in all of us.
Reduce The Risk Of Diabetes For Your Country
In 2014 the NHS released a report on the cost of Diabetes in the UK being £10 Billion per year. To put that into context, if you reach 10k steps every day you will reach 10 Billion in 274 years. However, if 3.5M people walked 10000 steps per day, you could reach 10 billion steps by lunchtime.
In 2014 when the report was released, the prevalence of diabetes in the UK was estimated at around 3.3m cases diagnosed according to diabetes.org.uk. The same source claimed 3.9m people diagnosed diabetes patients in 2019. It is also estimated that around 500k people in the UK are living undiagnosed with diabetes.
Diabetes is not just a UK problem either, China (109m) India (69m), and the USA (29m) all have a high prevalence of diabetes according to diabetes.co.uk.
Although there is no new data available as yet, it is thought that with more people working from home and becoming more inactive in 2020, these numbers can only have increased.
With Raj’s help, I have taken a closer look at type-2 diabetes and how walking for health can help us to reduce our own risk.
When you eat, as part of your digestive process, your body turns carbohydrates from food into glucose which flows into your bloodstream. assuming you are healthy, your Pancreas quickly reacts to the increase in blood sugar by creating and sending enough insulin to your bloodstream to unlock the energy in the glucose. If your pancreas cannot produce enough insulin, it will lead to you having too much glucose in your blood.
Diabetes is the name for the condition of high blood sugar due to insufficient insulin; however, there are different types of diabetes. The second most common form of diabetes diagnosed in the UK is type-1. Type-1 diabetes is usually diagnosed at a young age and is a condition that results in your body’s own immune system inhibiting your pancreas’ insulin production. Type-1 cannot be cured but it can be managed and research is on-going.
Type-2 diabetes sometimes referred to as “Adult Onset Diabetes”, occurs as a result of an unhealthy lifestyle and accounts for 90% of all diagnoses in the UK and in most cases can be avoided by understanding our bodies and treating them with love.
What Causes Type-2 Diabetes
Age, genetics, and ethnicity are all factors that may increase a person’s susceptibility to type-2 diabetes, however, there are also several prominent factors within your control. Being overweight, maintaining an unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, and even smoking are all linked to a person’s risk.
As we get older, our bodies will naturally become more resistant to insulin. Increased insulin resistance means our organs and our muscles do not respond properly to the insulin that has been sent from the pancreas. The pancreas then needs to work harder to unlock the energy and lower your blood sugar. With increased insulin resistance we are more at risk of having high blood sugar leading to diabetes if preventative action is not taken.
A lack of physical activity and maintaining an unhealthy diet go hand in with being overweight according to a study published in the National Library of Medicine. When we are overweight, it is thought that the insulin-producing cells are impaired making it more difficult to manage your blood sugar. This becomes more of a risk when paired with insulin resistance which as we know, increases naturally with age. If you’re a smoker, high nicotine levels can also lessen the effects of insulin.
Why Is Type-2 Diabetes Bad?
Your body is designed to be a finely tuned machine with each piece working in harmony. Your pancreas might be the most underrated piece of that machine. Every single part of your body requires energy. You use energy when you are asleep and awake, when you breathe and every time you move. Your heart, brain, and liver all need energy as do your muscles.
When your pancreas is no longer able to produce enough insulin relative to the energy your body needs, or relative to the food you’ve eaten, your body will be out of balance.
Less serious symptoms can be the need to urinate more than usual, feeling thirsty all the time, lethargy, cuts or wounds taking longer to heal, and blurred vision. However over time, if not managed correctly, diabetes will cause much more serious health complications.
Diabetes raises your risk of developing high blood pressure, which puts further strain on your heart. When you have high blood glucose levels, this can contribute to the formation of fatty deposits in blood vessel walls. This will eventually lead to a hardening of the blood vessels increasing the risk of blood clots. As a result, you will be more at risk of heart attacks, heart failure, and strokes. In some extreme cases, this can result in the need for lower limb amputation.
What Can We Do To Reduce The Risk Of Diabetes?
Whether you are at high or low risk of developing type-2 diabetes, we could all just be a careless lifestyle away. However, Raj, who is also the author of the Online Wellness Academy, says it’s avoidable.
“Prevention is better than cure, by keeping fit and moving, you can ensure you stay within your BMI. Staying within your BMI, keeping adipose tissue (belly fat) low, and efficient utilization of glucose whilst walking, will all lower the chances of developing type-2 diabetes. Walking after meals is a great way to digest food, utilize glucose, and prevent fat build-up in your muscles”
In my article about how walking aids digestion, I gave a nod to some research studies proving that walking for 15 minutes after a meal 3 times per day, was more effective at managing the blood sugar spikes we experience we eat than the equivalent amount of walking before meals or 45 minutes all in one shot.
While walking remains a low-impact form of exercise, according to Raj it can still be very effective in more ways.
“Skeletal muscle is the primary place of glucose utilization and larger muscle mass uses more fuel. Increasing lower extremity muscle mass is most important to reverse metabolic dysfunction. Physical activity improves insulin-dependent and non-insulin-dependent glucose disposal”
In Other Words, it’s great news for walking enthusiasts. Skeletal muscles are the ones that we have voluntary control of and if we are talking muscle mass, your quads are the largest muscle group in your body. Add in your glutes, hamstrings, and calves, and walking is looking like a fantastic place to build muscle to reduce the risk of type-2 diabetes.
Raj also offered 12 top tips to increase movement and reduce the risk of type-2 diabetes.
- Be cautious not to make exercise intimidating. Walking 30 minutes a day can reduce the risk of type-2 diabetes by as much as 50%
- Walking or exercising with a friend or engaging in a community is more likely to become a sustained behavior
- Using a pedometer to set and track goals can be really motivating and can inspire accountability within your group.
- Interval training can have cardiovascular and muscle-building benefits simultaneously and may improve vascular health. HIIT gym programs may be convenient but also doable on your own.
- Move your body naturally and as much as possible in your everyday activities.
- Walk up and down the stairs while on the phone or during the commercial break of your TV show, who wants to watch the ads anyway.
- Take the stairs instead of the escalator or elevator
- Park near the back of the parking lot and enjoy a longer walk.
- Buy groceries using 2 baskets instead of a cart.
- Vacuum with gusto. Turn up your favorite music.
- Do simple floor exercises vs. sitting on the couch while you watch TV (e.g. sit-ups, push-ups, squats, leg lifts).
- Walk the dog. Every day, a little bit further.
And of course, by continuing to raise your walking game everyday. Forty Thousand Footsteps is aimed at promoting the health benefits of a more active lifestyle, so this post is about movement and exercise, however, diet is still an important part of your physical wellbeing. The best way to effectively manage your own risk of type-2 diabetes is through a combination of a healthy balanced diet and an active lifestyle.
Reduce The Risk Of Diabetes – Take Back £9 Billion
We all know that we can maintain a healthy lifestyle by remaining active and eating right. However, by preventing the onset of type-2 diabetes you will not only reduce your risk of several more serious health complications, but you could also do your part in saving money for your country’s health service or even your own medical insurance.
If 90% of diabetic patients in the UK fall into the type-2 category, that’s about 3.5 million type-2 patients. Do you remember me saying 3.5 million people could get 10 billion footsteps by lunch? Well, if 3.5 million people did 10000 steps each per day, that is 35 billion daily footsteps. Making this a daily habit could well save the NHS up to £9 billion every single year.
If you would like to add to the discussion or you have a question relating to the benefits of walking for preventing the onset of type-2 diabetes, please let me know in the comments below