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Want to Control Blood Sugar Levels? This is the Best Time of Day to Exercise

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“Timing does seem to matter” for people with diabetes – and this is the best to work out to improve blood sugar, according to a new study.

According to recent data, diabetes affects over 37 million Americans, with approximately 90-95% of them being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Effective management of diabetes often involves lifestyle interventions, such as adopting a healthy diet and engaging in regular physical activity.

In a groundbreaking study conducted by a collaboration between Brigham and Women’s Hospital, a founding member of the Mass General Brigham healthcare system, and Joslin Diabetes Center, part of Beth Israel Lahey Health, researchers examined the impact of physical activity on blood glucose control and the development of cardiovascular disease in individuals diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and overweight or obesity.

Their findings, derived from the Look AHEAD (Action for Health in Diabetes) study, a randomized controlled trial, suggest that patients who engaged in physical activity during the afternoon experienced the greatest improvements in blood glucose control after one year in the trial.

The research outcomes have been published in the esteemed journal Diabetes Care.

“In this study, we shown that adults with type 2 diabetes had the greatest improvement in glucose control when they were most active in the afternoon,” explains co-corresponding author Jingyi Qian. “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.”

Physicians strongly recommend that individuals with diabetes incorporate regular physical activity into their daily routine to effectively manage their blood glucose levels. Having elevated blood glucose levels puts people with type 2 diabetes at a higher risk of developing heart disease, vision impairment, and kidney disease.

Afternoon Physical Activity Shows Promising Results for Managing Type 2 Diabetes

The new study conducted by the Brigham and Joslin research team focused on data obtained during the initial and fourth years of the Look AHEAD study. This study involved over 2,400 participants, and the researchers collected physical activity data by having the participants wear waist accelerometry recording devices.

The objective was to measure the level of physical activity. Upon reviewing the data from the first year, the team observed that individuals who engaged in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity during the afternoon experienced the most significant reduction in their blood glucose levels.

Interestingly, when comparing the data from the fourth year, it was found that the afternoon activity group sustained the reduction in blood glucose levels. Furthermore, this group also exhibited the highest likelihood of discontinuing their glucose-lowering/diabetes medications.

While the findings of the Brigham and Joslin study are compelling, it is important to acknowledge certain limitations. This investigation is considered observational, meaning it does not account for other factors that may impact the results, such as sleep patterns and dietary habits.

In future studies, the Brigham and Joslin research team plans to explore their findings experimentally, aiming to unravel the underlying mechanisms that potentially explain how the timing of physical activity may influence blood glucose control. By gaining a deeper understanding of these mechanisms, the team hopes to provide more specific physical activity recommendations tailored to individual patients with diabetes.

“Timing does seem to matter,” adds co-corresponding author Roeland Middelbeek. “Going forward, we may have more data and experimental evidence for patients to give more personalized recommendations.”

Source: 10.2337/dc22-2413

Image Credit: Getty

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