Associations of steps per day and step intensity with the risk of diabetes: the Hispanic Community Health Study / Study of Latinos (HCHS/SOL)

Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2022 Apr 15;19(1):46. doi: 10.1186/s12966-022-01284-2.


Background: Higher levels of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity have been associated with a lower risk of diabetes, but less is known about how daily step counts (steps/day) are associated with diabetes risk. Therefore, we examined the association of steps/day and step intensity with incident diabetes.

Methods: We included 6634 adults from the population-based prospective cohort Hispanic Community Health Study/Study of Latinos (HCHS/SOL) (2008-2017). Cox proportional hazard models that accounted for complex survey design and sampling weights were used to estimate the association of baseline accelerometer-assessed steps/day and step intensity with 6-year risk of incident diabetes as hazard ratios (HR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI). We further examined whether the percent of intense steps at a given accumulation of steps/day was associated with diabetes risk, and if associations were modified by specific cohort characteristics.

Results: The average age of cohort members was 39 years and 52% were female. Adults had an average of 8164 steps/day and spent 12 min/day in brisk ambulation (> 100 steps/min). Over 6 years of follow-up, there were 1115 cases of diabetes. There was a suggestive lower risk of diabetes with more steps/day- adults had a 2% lower risk per 1000 steps/day (HR = 0.98 (95% CI 0.95, 1.00)). Inverse associations between average steps/day and diabetes incidence were observed across many cohort characteristics, but most importantly among adults at high risk for diabetes - those who were older, or had obesity or prediabetes. Adults who accumulated 17 min/day in brisk ambulation compared to < 2 min/day had a 31% lower risk of diabetes (HR = 0.69 (95% CI 0.53, 0.89)). A greater percent of intense steps for a given accumulation of steps/day was associated with further risk reduction.

Conclusion: Adults who accumulate more daily steps may have a lower risk of diabetes. Accumulating more steps/day and greater step intensity appear to be important targets for preventing diabetes.

Keywords: Cohort; Diabetes; Epidemiology; Hispanic/Latino; Physical activity; Step cadence; Steps per day.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Diabetes Mellitus* / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Hispanic or Latino
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prospective Studies
  • Public Health*
  • Risk Factors
  • Walking