Can you control blood sugar better by exercising in the afternoon? Study suggests new routine for Type 2 diabetes


If you thought that a morning gym routine was enough to lower blood sugar levels while keeping to sedentary patterns for the rest of the day, then perhaps it is time to revise that notion. A new US study, done by researchers from several universities and published in the journal Diabetes Care, has found that moderate-to-vigorous physical activity in the afternoon worked best to improve glycaemic control in adults with diabetes, especially within the first 12 months of diagnosis.

The researchers found that people who did moderate-to-vigorous physical activity in the afternoon had lowered their blood glucose levels by 30 per cent to 50 per cent in the first year. The researchers also looked at data from the fourth year of the study and found that the afternoon exercise group had maintained that reduction in blood glucose levels. They also had the highest chances of stopping their glucose-lowering medications.

According to Dr Subhash Kumar Wangnoo, Senior Consultant Endocrinologist and Diabetologist at the Apollo Centre for Obesity, Diabetes and Endocrinology, New Delhi, the afternoon exercise regimen is effective because of the body’s circadian rhythm and the way it influences glucose metabolism. Incorporating exercise later in the day can enhance glucose uptake and utilization, leading to improved blood sugar management in people with Type 2 diabetes. Besides, it is also that time of the day when two major meals and possibly a snack have already been had. Exercise facilitates a quicker glucose uptake.

A study has said that exercising in the afternoon may help those living with Type 2 diabetes lower their blood sugar levels. What is the science behind this?

The study suggests that the timing of exercise plays a role in managing blood glucose levels efficiently. The process behind this phenomenon can be attributed to the body’s circadian rhythm and the way it influences glucose metabolism. The circadian rhythm is the internal biological clock that regulates various physiological processes throughout the day. It affects hormone secretion, including insulin, which is responsible for regulating blood sugar. In the afternoon, the body’s insulin sensitivity tends to be higher and, therefore, exercises at this hour can improve blood sugar control. They can align with the body’s natural hormonal fluctuations and maximise the utilisation of glucose by the muscles. However, it is important to note that individual responses may vary and consulting a healthcare professional is recommended to determine the most suitable exercise regimen.

How does exercise influence blood sugar?

Exercise has a significant impact on blood sugar levels, especially for individuals with diabetes. When engaging in moderate to vigorous physical activity, the muscles require more energy, leading to an increased uptake of glucose from the bloodstream. As a result, exercise can help lower blood sugar levels by promoting glucose utilization and reducing insulin resistance. During exercise, muscle contractions stimulate the movement of glucose transporters to the cell surface, facilitating glucose uptake.

This mechanism allows the muscles to use glucose as fuel, thereby lowering blood sugar levels. Furthermore, physical activity can improve insulin sensitivity, making the body’s cells more responsive to the hormone’s actions.

However, the timing of exercise is also crucial. Research suggests that engaging in exercise after meals can have a more significant impact on postprandial glucose levels. This timing aligns with the body’s natural insulin response to food intake, further enhancing glucose utilization and maintaining stable blood sugar levels. Blood sugar is usually higher in the afternoon because you’ve eaten breakfast, lunch, fruits and snacks by then. A workout is the perfect way to bring this caloric load down.

What should one do if unable to exercise in the afternoon?

Morning exercise has shown to have beneficial effects on insulin sensitivity and glucose metabolism, making it a favourable option for those who cannot take a break in the middle of a workday.

Ideally for how long should one exercise? Is there a specific routine one must follow?

A recommended approach would be to aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity exercise per week, incorporating a mix of aerobic exercises, such as brisk walking, cycling or swimming, along with strength training exercises for overall fitness and health benefits.

Does exercising in the afternoon help in prediabetes as well?

The timing of the exercise may have an impact on pre-diabetic individuals too. The study found that moderate-to-vigorous exercise in the afternoon was associated with improved glucose control and a reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes in pre-diabetic individuals.


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