One of the most important parts of diabetes care is receiving enough daily physical activity to help lose weight and vastly reduce the risk of serious complications. Finding various methods of exercise doesn't necessarily mean having to go to the gym or jog on the track. There are plenty of alternative workout routines that don't require a monthly membership and can often be found right outside your front door.

Canadian researchers recently analyzed whether people who live in neighborhoods that are convenient for walking have lower rates of obesity and diabetes than communities more auto-dependent. Determining what makes a neighborhood walkable relied heavily on factors such as less sprawl, favorable interconnectivity among streets and more local stores and services that were within walking distance.

Metropolitan areas in southern Ontario were the source of neighborhoods used for the study, and colleagues analyzed the communities and their inhabitants for 10 years. Variables such as healthier people being more likely to live in more walkable neighborhoods were controlled by the professors through only studying people with similar health traits and lifestyles.

After carefully reviewing the results, the researchers determined that people who lived in neighborhoods that catered more to walking had significantly lower rates of obesity and diabetes compared to areas that were geared to car travel. Specifically, neighborhoods with higher walkability had a 13 percent lower development of diabetes over the course of 10 years, and obesity also saw a decline of 9 percent during the same time frame when compared to communities that did not encourage walking.

Dr. Gillian Booth, a research scientist at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto and lead contributor to the study, clearly laid out the correlation between neighborhoods that plan out more walking opportunities for citizens and a higher probability of living a healthier life.

"How we build our cities matters in terms of our overall health," Booth said in a statement. "This is one piece of a puzzle that we can potentially do something about. As a society, we have engineered physical activity out of our lives. Every opportunity to walk, to get outside, to go to the corner store or walk our children to school can have a big impact on our risk for diabetes and becoming overweight."

Weighing risk factors for diabetes

Immobility often contributes to the development of diabetes because an inactive lifestyle can easily trigger risk factors that help advance the disease. These risk factors include:

  • Obesity
  • Little to no exercise
  • High blood pressure
  • Poor nutrition
  • Genetics and family history
  • Age

It cannot be stressed enough how performing frequent physical activity can help offset these risk factors for diabetes. The American Diabetes Association says that losing 10 to 15 pounds will make a dramatic difference in your probability of developing the disease.

To learn more about staying active with diabetes:

9 Exercise Myths We Need to Forget
Walking vs. Running: Which Is Really Best?
3 Equipment-Free Exercises to Combat Diabetes