Fewer Steps Per Day Send Disease Markers Up

Forbes.com—March 18, 2008

Forget about regular, scheduled exercise for a minute. If you just drop your average daily activity level -- by taking elevators instead of stairs, by parking your car in the closest space, or by never walking to do errands -- you increase your risk of diabetes, heart disease and premature death, according to new Danish research.

And, those changes begin in as little as 14 days after you start to reduce your activity level, the researchers say.

The team found that when healthy men cut their daily activity, their insulin levels spiked dramatically, as did levels of blood factors such as C-peptide and triglycerides -- suggesting an increased risk of diabetes and heart disease.

"The message here is that a lot of significant changes can occur without a huge change in weight, so if your only barometer of success and health is weight, you're missing out," said exercise physiologist Polly deMille, from Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City.

Results of the study were published as a letter in the March 19 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The study included 18 young, healthy men with no family history of diabetes. None of the men smoked, and none participated in a regular exercise program for more than two hours each week.

The good news here, deMille added, is that the flip side is also true.

With just a couple of weeks of increased physical activity, you can start to reduce your risk of diabetes and heart disease, even if you don't notice a big difference on the bathroom scale.

"Just get some movement in. Even if it's not what you think you should be doing, every lit bit helps in terms of keeping metabolism healthy," she said. DeMille recommended getting a pedometer to see how many steps you're already taking in a day, and then working toward adding to that each day.

"Ten thousand steps a day is recommended as a goal, but if you could get up to 5,000 a day, that's a big gain in terms of becoming a more active, healthy person. If you can do more, that's great, but every little bit counts," deMille said.

^ Back to Top
Request an Appointment