Background: Walking is the most popular and most preferred exercise among type 2 diabetes patients, yet compelling evidence regarding its beneficial effects on cardiovascular risk factors is still lacking. The aim of this meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) was to evaluate the association between walking and glycemic control and other cardiovascular risk factors in type 2 diabetes patients.
Methods: Three databases were searched up to August 2014. English-language RCTs were eligible for inclusion if they had assessed the walking effects (duration ≥8 weeks) on glycemic control or other cardiovascular risk factors among type 2 diabetes patients. Data were pooled using a random-effects model. Subgroup analyses based on supervision status and meta-regression analyses of variables regarding characteristics of participants and walking were performed to investigate their association with glycemic control.
Results: Eighteen studies involving 20 RCTs (866 participants) were included. Walking significantly decreased glycosylated haemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) by 0.50% (95% confidence intervals [CI]: -0.78% to -0.21%). Supervised walking was associated with a pronounced decrease in HbA1c (WMD -0.58%, 95% CI: -0.93% to -0.23%), whereas non-supervised walking was not. Further subgroup analysis suggested non-supervised walking using motivational strategies is also effective in decreasing HbA1c (WMD -0.53%, 95% CI: -1.05% to -0.02%). Effects of covariates on HbA1c change were generally unclear. For other cardiovascular risk factors, walking significantly reduced body mass index (BMI) and lowered diastolic blood pressure (DBP), but non-significantly lowered systolic blood pressure (SBP), or changed high-density or low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels.
Conclusions: This meta-analysis supports that walking decreases HbA1c among type 2 diabetes patients. Supervision or the use of motivational strategies should be suggested when prescribed walking to ensure optimal glycemic control. Walking also reduces BMI and lowers DBP, however, it remains insufficient regarding the association of walking with lowered SBP or improved lipoprotein profiles.
Trial registration: PROSPERO CRD42014009515.