Increasing the number of steps you take every day decreases your risk of developing diabetes, according to a new study.

People who took more steps a day in 2005 than they did in 2000 had a lower body mass index, a lower waist-to-hip ratio and better insulin sensitivity (a measure of diabetes risk) than they did at the start of the study, according to researchers at Murdoch Childrens Research Institute in Australia. One of the biggest reasons for the decrease in diabetes risk was a change in the weight of the people in the study over five years, researchers said in a statement.

The finding even applied to people who started out the study with sedentary lifestyles, the researchers found. Sedentary people who increased their daily step amount to 10,000 over the five years improved their insulin sensitivity by three times, compared with people who took 3,000 steps for five days a week, the researchers said.

But 65 percent of the people in the study took fewer steps a day in 2005 than they did in 2000.

The study looked at the walking habits of 592 middle-aged adults between 2000 and 2005. Each person completed a detailed diet and lifestyle questionnaire and wore a pedometer for the next five years.

Past research has shown that walking more can decrease the risk of becoming overweight and obese and developing insulin resistance. But the new study suggests that long-term increases in the number of steps you take a day can also make a difference in your diabetes risk, the researchers said.

To maintain a healthy weight, men ages 18 to 50 should take 12,000 steps a day, and men age 50 and older should take 11,000 steps a day, according to a 2008 study in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health.

Women ages 18 to 40 should take 12,000 steps a day, whereas women ages 40 to 50 should take 11,000 steps a day. Women in their 50s should take 10,000 steps a day, and women 60 and older should take 8,000 steps a day, the study said.

Pass it on: Taking more steps every day does more than ward off extra weight it can also decrease your chance of developing diabetes.

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