Walking an extra 1,000 steps a day can help children with type 1 diabetes improve their cardiovascular health, according to new research.
It is the first time a link has been found between a daily step count and early signs of cardiovascular risk in children with the condition, experts said.
Researchers from the University of Adelaide and Women’s and Children’s Hospital monitored 90 children with type 1 diabetes and measured their physical activity.
They discovered improvements in blood vessel structure and also a lower risk of heart disease in those who took part in additional exercise.
Lead author Dr Alexia Pena, from the University of Adelaide’s Robinson Research Institute and Paediatric Endocrinologist at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital, said: “Children with type 1 diabetes often report lower physical activity levels than recommended for children of the same age.
“We also tend to see early signs of atherosclerosis – a build-up of plaque in the arteries – and other adverse cardiovascular risks at an earlier age than usual for these children.”
The team found that 55 per cent of the pre-to early-teen children who participated in the study took fewer than 10,000 steps per day.
Pena added: “There were clear correlations between artery thickness and the average number of steps per day. With an increase of 1,000 steps each day, we saw a measurable decrease in this arterial thickness.
“In the children who had extra physical activity, we also saw reductions in weight, blood pressure, and trigylcerides, which indicates an overall reduction in risk of heart disease.
“Our findings emphasise the importance of physical activity for children, and the need for advice on the benefits of exercise for children with type 1 diabetes. The more steps they do, the better.”
This research, which has been published in the journal Diabetes Care, was supported by the Diabetes Australia Research Trust, the Australasian Paediatric Endocrine Care, and the Women’s and Children’s Hospital Foundation.