Written by Dennis Mann
TUESDAY, May 30, 2023 (HealthDay News) — If you’re one of the millions of people living with type 2 diabetes, you know that regular exercise can help you keep your blood sugar in check.
Now, new research suggests that exercising in the afternoon may help maximize these benefits.
The new study wasn’t designed to say how or even if exercising in the afternoon is better for blood sugar control, but the researchers do have a few theories.
“If you exercise after a meal, it may be more beneficial than fasting, and if you exercise in the afternoon, it is likely after a meal,” said study author Jingye Qian. She is an associate physiologist and associate director of the Medical Chronobiology Program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
By contrast, people who exercise in the morning may not eat breakfast until after they have finished.
Qian cautioned that this doesn’t mean you should skip a workout if you can’t find time in the afternoon. “The best time to exercise is when you can and where you can.”
For the study, more than 2,400 people with type 2 diabetes wore a device on their waist that tracks physical activity for a week when the study began and four years later. They were grouped on the basis of the time of day they exercised at one and four years.
Afternoon exercisers, those who exercised between 2pm and 5pm, showed greater improvement in blood sugar control at one year, which persisted four years later. What’s more, people who exercised in the afternoon no longer needed glucose-lowering diabetes medications.
The study did not look at specific types of exercise. “This is an emerging area, and we will know more with more studies,” Qian said.
The study appears in the May 25 issue of Diabetic care.
It’s too early to make any comprehensive recommendations about the best time of day to exercise for people with type 2 diabetes, said Tanya Halliday, associate professor in the department of health and kinesiology at Utah Health.
“We don’t yet know if the timing of the exercise itself influenced these results or if there were differences between people choosing to exercise at different times of the day themselves,” said Halliday, who was not involved in the new study.
For example, the timing of exercise may lead to changes in diet or sleep patterns that improve blood sugar and reduce the use of glucose-lowering medications.
“It will be interesting to see if this observation is replicated in other analyses,” Halliday said.
Her advice? “I like to encourage people to exercise when they are most likely to exercise consistently, whether that’s first thing in the morning or late afternoon,” she said.
“Personal preference, work schedule, and when workout buddies are available all influence when a person chooses to exercise, which is totally fine,” Halliday added.
Seeks toMeet current physical activity guidelines from the American Diabetes Association, which call for 150 minutes or more of moderate-to-vigorous-intensity aerobic activity each week and two to three weekly sessions of resistance or strength training.
“I would strongly encourage people with type 2 diabetes to discuss their exercise plans with their medical care team so that appropriate follow-up and changes to medications can be made as the exercise program progresses,” Halliday said.
Dr. Ruchi Mathur agreed. She’s an endocrinologist at the Cedars-Sinai Diabetes Outpatient Treatment and Education Center in Los Angeles.
And she pointed out that everyone who exercised witnessed a decrease in blood sugar, regardless of the timing. “It was more pronounced in those who did an afternoon activity,” said Mathur, who is unrelated to the new research.
“Movement is key, as is consistency,” she said. “Do something you enjoy, do it with someone you enjoy, and maybe set aside some time in the afternoon to achieve those goals.”
The American Diabetes Association has more benefits of exercise for people with diabetes.
SOURCES: Jingye Qian, PhD, associate physiologist, co-director, Medical Chronobiology Program, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston; Tanya M. Halliday, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Health and Kinesiology, University of Utah Health, Salt Lake City, UT; Ruchi Mathur, MD, endocrinologist, Cedars-Sinai Diabetes Treatment and Education Center, Los Angeles; diabetes care, May 25, 2023