Walking faster could lower your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, according to a new study.

Researchers found people who walked faster than 3km an hour (1.86 mph) were less likely to develop the condition, while those with a speedier stride of more than 6km an hour (3.7 mph) lowered their risk by 39%.

According to the International Diabetes Federation, there are about 537 million people with diabetes worldwide.

In June, academics publishing in The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology journal claimed cases could top 1.3 billion by 2050.

While physical activity is associated with a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes, researchers from Imperial College London, the University of Medical Sciences in Iran and Oslo New University College in Norway set out to ascertain the optimal walking speed to stave off the disease.

The team looked at ten studies published between 1999 and 2022, which included follow-up periods of between three and 11 years.

Some 508,121 adult patients were included in total, from across the UK, Japan and the US.

The team found walking at between 3km and 5km per hour reduced the risk of type 2 diabetes by 15% when compared with walking at a pace of less than 3km an hour.

The risk reduced further with a faster pace, with a fairly brisk walk of between 5km and 6km associated with a 24% lower risk.

Those who walked at a speed of higher than 6km an hour had a 39% lower risk of developing the condition.

“While current strategies to increase total walking time are beneficial, it may also be reasonable to encourage people to walk at faster speeds to further increase the health benefits of walking,” researchers said.

The team acknowledge some limitations of their work, including that three studies included in their analysis were rated as having a moderate risk of bias, while the remaining seven were rated as having a serious risk.

They also said people with a faster walking speed are more likely to be fitter, with greater muscle mass and better overall health.

Neil Gibson, senior physical activity adviser at Diabetes UK, said the “study highlights what we already know, that being physically active, which can include brisk walking, can help lower a person’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes and that increasing the intensity of activity, such as by walking faster, gives greater overall health benefits”.

He added: “We welcome further research to confirm whether, and to what extent, picking up the pace boosts the positive effects walking can have on reducing the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

“Walking is cost-free, simple and for most people can be integrated into regular activities like getting to work, shopping and visiting friends.

“While progressing to a faster pace is usually recommended for greater health gains, it’s important that people walk at a pace that they can manage and is suitable for them.”