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Can getting more steps each day lower diabetes risk?

One way to lower your risk of diabetes may simply be to move more.

When it comes to whether you’ll develop type 2 diabetes, there are many factors at play. Some risk factors are under your control, while others are not. By making positive lifestyle changes that affect the risk factors you can control, you make it more likely you won’t develop this chronic and serious disease.

“There are easy ways to help keep your blood sugar within safe limits, such as exercising and maintaining a balanced diet,” said John McRae, MD, an endocrinologist with Maury Regional Medical Group (MRMG) Endocrinology in Columbia. “When taking blood sugar readings, a normal level is less than 100, 100-125 indicates prediabetes and anything 126 or higher indicates diabetes.”

One recent study found an easy way to lower your chance of developing type 2 diabetes. The study, published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, analyzed data from wearable activity trackers and found that people who spent more time doing any type of physical activity had a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Those logging more than 10,000 steps a day were 44% less likely to develop type 2 diabetes than those getting 6,000 steps.

The findings came from analyzing Fitbit data and type 2 diabetes rates from 5,677 participants (about 75% of them were women) in the National Institute of Health’s All of Us Research Program between 2010-2021. Although more research needs to be done on the subject, this information gives us one seemingly powerful defense to protect ourselves from diabetes: we have to move more each day!

“Exercise is one of the best ways to keep your blood sugar in check and lower your risk for developing type 2 diabetes,” Dr. McRae said. “Talk with your physician about managing your blood sugar levels and making a plan of action.”

What increases your risk of type 2 diabetes?

The amount of physical activity you do (or don’t do) may have an impact on your risk of type 2 diabetes, but it’s not the only thing affecting your risk. Other risk factors include:

  • Being overweight
  • Being age 45 or older
  • Being one of the following ethnicities: African American, Hispanic/Latino, American Indian, Alaskan Native, Pacific Islander or Asian American
  • Having a parent or sibling with type 2 diabetes
  • Having prediabetes (blood sugar of 100-125)
  • Having ever had diabetes during pregnancy (gestational diabetes)
  • Having non-alcoholic fatty liver disease

What can you do to lower your risk of type 2 diabetes?

You can’t change some risk factors, such as your age, ethnicity or family history. But making the following healthy lifestyle changes may help prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes:

  • Move more – Increase the number of steps you take each day and engage in any type of activity you enjoy that gets you moving.
  • Eat a healthy diet – Build your diet around vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean protein, healthy fats and low-fat dairy. Limit added sugar, white flour and saturated fat.
  • Lose weight – If you’re overweight, losing even a small amount of weight can lower your diabetes risk. The other lifestyle changes listed above (moving more and eating a healthy diet) can help.

Maury Regional Health offers multiple resources for those who have been diagnosed with diabetes, including support groups, a diabetes self-management class and nutrition therapy. To learn more, visit



John McRae, MD, is an endocrinologist with Maury Regional Medical Group (MRMG) Endocrinology in Columbia. 


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Date Last Reviewed: January 17, 2023
Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor
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