Diabetes drains energy during everyday tasks

DIABETES patients face an energy-sapping burden when walking compared to those without the condition, research shows.

In the first study of its kind, healthcare scientists at Manchester Metropolitan University demonstrated the negative impact diabetes has on everyday tasks such as walking.

Patients expend more energy to match the equivalent walking speed of people without the condition as a consequence of complications arising from diabetes. Problems include stiffening of the Achilles tendon, increased muscle usage, foot deformities and a higher step frequency.

The research, published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, is part of a series of ongoing studies at the University into the gait and biomechanical analysis of diabetic patients to understand the lifestyle impact of the condition. Current global estimates predict that by 2025, as many as 300 million people will have type two diabetes.

Energy drain

Researcher Professor Neil Reeves, Professor of Musculoskeletal Biomechanics at Manchester Met, believes the results will help to provide better everyday care for patients.

“If we can fully understand how diabetes impacts on energy usage during daily tasks such as walking, we can then start to develop intervention strategies allowing people to cope better with daily tasks such as walking to the shops or seeing friends, whilst maintaining physical activity levels,” he said.

“Previous studies have shown diabetic patients make biomechanical alterations to their gait to reduce demands and naturally adopt a slower walking speed, but this is the first time we are able to understand the impact diabetes has on actual energy expenditure. What may seem like a manageable stroll to those without the condition could be an impossible task to patients with diabetes due to the higher energy cost of walking.”

Scientists tested non-diabetics, diabetic patients with diabetic peripheral neuropathy (DPN) and patients without DPN. DPN is present in 30-50% of diabetes patients, where high blood sugar levels cause nerve damage. It affects sensory perception, muscle function and motor control, and automatic nervous system function.

Cost of walking

Participants were recorded walking at varying speeds using motion analysis and walked on a treadmill while their oxygen uptake was measured to establish the ‘cost of walking’.

Diabetic patients required more oxygen to match the speeds of people without diabetes, significantly so in the case of DPN.

Researchers believe the higher energetic cost is caused by: the long Achilles tendon, which plays a major role in energy saving during walking, becoming stiffer through the effects of nonenzymatic glycation; more muscles working per step than usual; foot deformities and a higher step frequency.




The paper, Is the metabolic cost of walking higher in people with diabetes?, was published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, 2016 Vol. 120 (1), 55-62.


To access the journal article or to speak to Professor Neil Reeves, contact:


Chris Morris, Press Officer. Tel: 0161 247 2184. Email: [email protected]

Healthcanal Staff
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