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Study shows pedometer reduces diabetes risk

Using a pedometer could reduce the chances of developing Type 2 diabetes by more than 50 per cent, according to a new study

Using a pedometer as part of a structured education programme could reduce the chances of developing Type 2 diabetes by more than 50 per cent, according to a new Diabetes UK-funded study.

A total of 98 people with prediabetes – a precursor to Type 2 diabetes in which blood sugar levels are raised - took part in the study to assess the effectiveness of the Prediabetes Risk Education and Physical Activity Recommendation and Encouragement (PREPARE) programme and to see whether using a pedometer helps people to sustain increased physical activity levels.

For the study, volunteers were split into three groups; a control group, which was given only a brief information leaflet, another group which took part in the education session and the test group, which was given both the education session and a pedometer. The pedometer group was helped to set personalised 'steps-per-day' targets, aimed at achieving at least 30 minutes of walking activity each day. All groups were followed up after three, six and 12 months.

After a year those who used the pedometer saw their blood sugar levels fall by 15 per cent, and it is believed that, if continued in the long term, such a fall would cut their chance of developing diabetes in half. No significant falls in blood sugar levels were witnessed in either of the two other groups.

An estimated seven million people in the UK currently suffer from prediabetes, which puts patients at up to 15 times the normal risk of going on to develop full-blown diabetes. More than 2.5 million people in Britain are already diabetic, and it is predicted that this number will rise to as many as 4 million by 2025. 

According to Dr Iain Frame, research director at Diabetes UK, finding new ways to educate and motivate people with prediabetes, will help prevent the Type 2 diabetes epidemic and millions of people developing serious complications of the condition, such as heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, blindness and amputation.

"This study shows that we can and must take action to prevent Type 2 diabetes, particularly if the benefits can be shown in a larger number of people and over a sustained period of time," Dr Frame said.

Lead researcher Dr Thomas Yates, from the department of cardiovascular sciences at the University of Leicester, added: "Using lifestyle interventions such as PREPARE to stop people developing Type 2 diabetes and its complications could save the NHS a fortune. This is particularly relevant to the Government's health check programme, which focuses on the prevention of vascular disease, including Type 2 diabetes.

"The impressive results of this study are already being recognised and the programme is now being implemented in Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) in England and Ireland. Longer-term evaluation of its impact continues both in these PCTs and in the original study participants."

4th January 2010

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