A groundbreaking study published in Diabetes Care suggests that the timing of physical activity plays a vital role in determining the benefits for individuals with type 2 diabetes (T2D) in managing their condition and reducing health complications.
According to the research, which involved analyzing physical activity data from over 2,400 overweight individuals diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, exercising in the afternoon yielded the most significant results in controlling blood glucose levels.
Excitingly, study co-author Dr. Jingyi Qian, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School’s Massachusetts’ Brigham and Women’s Hospital, emphasizes the newfound understanding regarding the importance of timing, stating, “These are very exciting findings because we’ve known that physical activity is beneficial, but what our study adds is a new understanding that timing of activity may be important too.”
The research, conducted as part of the Look AHEAD study, monitored the health of more than 5,000 overweight or obese individuals with type 2 diabetes. The study’s participants wore devices to measure physical activity, allowing the researchers to evaluate the effects of exercise on blood glucose levels.
After one year, those who engaged in moderate to vigorous physical activity in the afternoon experienced the most significant reduction in blood glucose levels. Additionally, these afternoon exercisers had the highest likelihood of reducing or even discontinuing their glucose-monitoring diabetes medications.
Interestingly, the benefits of afternoon exercise persisted even three years later, with participants who maintained a regular afternoon workout regimen showing sustained reductions in blood glucose levels.
While the exact reasons behind the success of afternoon exercise remain unclear, the research team suggests that factors such as sleep patterns, diet, and metabolism may provide valuable insights. Dr. Qian expresses hope for further research that would delve into these factors, allowing for a more direct link to be established.
However, it’s important to exercise caution when interpreting these findings. Dr. Mitchell Lazar from the University of Penn Health System reminds us that the study does not demonstrate a definitive cause-and-effect relationship between the timing of exercise and blood glucose reduction. He advises against prematurely prescribing afternoon exercise to individuals with type 2 diabetes without considering other confounding factors.
It is worth noting that previous studies have identified associations between exercise timing and health risks for people with type 2 diabetes. For instance, a 2021 study linked morning workouts to an increased risk of heart attack in men with type 2 diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes, the most prevalent form of diabetes, occurs when the body becomes resistant to insulin or fails to produce enough insulin. Symptoms include frequent urination, increased thirst, and blurry vision. Managing blood glucose levels is crucial to prevent long-term complications, including cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, nerve damage, eye damage, and kidney disease.
As further research is conducted to explore the intricate relationship between exercise timing and type 2 diabetes management, physicians will gain a more comprehensive understanding to guide the prescription of physical activity at specific times of the day, potentially improving blood glucose control for individuals living with this chronic condition.