Take a breather during your next workout: walking might protect against diabetes more than running does, research from Duke University suggests.
In the study, researchers had people with prediabetes – a common condition where your blood sugar is elevated, but not quite at the level to count as diabetes – walk briskly or jog 22 kilometres a week for 6 months.
They discovered that those in the walking group showed nearly 6 times greater improvement in their glucose tolerance – which measures how well their cells absorb blood sugar – than the joggers did.
More research needs to be done to figure out why exactly walking seems more protective against diabetes than running, says study coauthor Dr Cris A. Slentz, of Duke University.
But researchers do have some theories.
One possibility? When you perform moderate exercise – like walking three miles – your body taps into its stores of fatty acids to fuel it more than it does when you exercise vigorously, like if you jogged the same distance, he says.
That’s good news for your diabetes risk: too much fatty acids can make it harder for your body to process the hormone insulin.
And if your body can’t use insulin effectively, your cells won’t be able to absorb blood sugar from your bloodstream.
So your body cranks out more and more insulin to try to compensate. Eventually, you can’t produce enough of it to effectively remove the blood sugar from your blood, which triggers prediabetes and diabetes.
Until further research is performed, it’s not quite clear whether walking affects the bodies of healthy guys in the same way it does for those who are prediabetic.
Still, the findings apply to more guys than you may think: More than 1 out of every 3 Americans is prediabetic, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
So if you’re prediabetic—you have fasting plasma glucose levels between 100 and 125 milligrams per deciliter(mg/dL) – or diabetic – levels 126 mg/dL or above – make it a point to fit walking into your workout.
But don’t swear off jogging: vigorous exercise is vital for promoting a healthy heart, as well as improving mobility and other bodily functions, says Slentz.
Combining the two into a workout plan can help you reap the greatest benefits, he says.