Higher walking levels lead to lower mortality in type 2 diabetes, but inclement weather may reduce walking. In this patient population, we conducted a longitudinal cohort study to objectively quantify seasonal variations both in walking and in two vascular risk factors associated with activity levels, hemoglobin A1C and blood pressure.
Between June 2006 and July 2009, volunteer type 2 diabetes patients in Montreal, Quebec, Canada underwent two weeks of pedometer measurement up to four times over a one year follow-up period (i.e. once/season). Pedometer viewing windows were concealed (snap-on cover and tamper proof seal). A1C, blood pressure, and anthropometric parameters were also assessed. Given similarities in measures for spring/summer and fall/winter, and because not all participants completed four assessments, spring and summer values were collapsed as were fall and winter values. Mean within-individual differences (95% confidence intervals) were computed for daily steps, A1C, and systolic and diastolic blood pressure, by subtracting spring/summer values from fall/winter values.
Among 201 participants, 166 (82.6%) underwent at least one fall/winter and one spring/summer evaluation. Approximately half were women, the mean age was 62.4 years (SD 10.8), and the mean BMI was 30.1 kg/m2 (SD 5.7). Step counts averaged at a sedentary level in fall/winter (mean 4,901 steps/day, SD 2,464) and at a low active level in spring/summer (mean 5,659 steps/day, SD 2,611). There was a -758 (95% CI: -1,037 to -479) mean fall/winter to spring/summer within-individual difference. There were no significant differences in A1C or in anthropometric parameters. Systolic blood pressure was higher in fall/winter (mean 137 mm Hg, SD 16) than spring/summer (133 mm Hg, SD 14) with a mean difference of 4.0 mm Hg (95% CI: 2.3 to 5.7).
Daily step counts in type 2 diabetes patients are low, dipping lower during fall/winter. In this medication-treated cohort, A1C was stable year-round but a fall/winter systolic blood pressure increase was detected. Our findings signal a need to develop strategies to help patients increase step counts year-round and prevent both reductions in step counts and increases in blood pressure during the fall and winter.