Walking is a highly recommended form of exercise for many conditions, including diabetes, and heart disease. A study suggests that engaging in brisk walking, at a pace of four or more kilometers in an hour, is associated with reduced risk of type 2 diabetes.

With every one km increase in the speed of walking, researchers found a 9% reduction in diabetes risk, according to a study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

Although studies have shown that walking is beneficial for reducing diabetes risk, the optimal speed was not known.

Researchers evaluated several long-term studies and selected 10 of them. They were conducted between 1999 and 2022, with a follow-up period of three to 11 years, and included 508,121 adult participants from the U.S., Japan and the U.K.

An analysis showed that an average walking speed of 2-3 miles or 3-5 km/hour was associated with a 15% lower risk of type 2 diabetes when compared to strolling at a lower speed. The results were irrespective of the time spent walking.

Walking at a speed of 3-4 miles/hour or 5-6 km/hour was associated with a 24% lower risk of type 2 diabetes. The walking speed above four miles or 6 km/hour was associated with a reduced risk of around 39%, which was equivalent to 2.24 fewer cases of type 2 diabetes in every 100 people.

"Every 1 km/hour increase in walking speed was associated with a 9% lower risk of type 2 diabetes, with the minimal threshold of 4km/hour equal to 87 steps/min for men and 100 steps/ min for women, the findings suggest," researchers said in a news release.

A limitation is that the studies had a moderate to high risk of bias in the way walking speed was assessed. Researchers also caution about the possibility of reverse causality whereby participants with faster walking speed are more likely to be physically active and have better cardiorespiratory fitness, greater muscle mass and better overall health status.

"Walking speed is an important indicator of overall health and a key indicator of functional capacity; faster walking speed is associated with better cardiorespiratory fitness and muscle strength, both of which are linked to diabetes risk; and brisk walking is good for weight loss, which helps to improve insulin sensitivity," the researchers explained.