People with type 2 diabetes may benefit from exercising in the afternoon, study shows

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Type 2 diabetes is a chronic condition that affects millions of people worldwide. It is characterized by high levels of sugar or glucose in the blood due to either the body’s inability to produce enough insulin or the resistance of cells to insulin’s effects. It can lead to various complications, including heart disease, nerve damage, blindness, kidney failure, and amputations. However, managing type 2 diabetes is possible with lifestyle changes, including a healthy diet and regular exercise. In this article, we will explore a recent study that suggests people with type 2 diabetes may benefit from exercising in the afternoon.

Traditionally, health experts recommend exercising in the morning or evening to improve blood sugar control in people with type 2 diabetes. However, a study published in Diabetologia, the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes, challenges this notion. The study, conducted by researchers from the University of Turku, Finland, involved 10 men with type 2 diabetes who were asked to exercise in the morning, afternoon, and evening on different days and at least one week apart. The researchers monitored the participants’ blood sugar levels, insulin sensitivity, and other metabolic markers before, during, and after the exercise sessions.

The study found that exercising in the afternoon resulted in the most significant improvement in blood sugar control compared to morning or evening exercise. Specifically, the participants’ blood sugar levels decreased by an average of 12 percent when they exercised in the afternoon, compared to 8 percent in the morning and 4 percent in the evening. Moreover, the participants’ insulin sensitivity improved by 20 percent after afternoon exercise.

The researchers attribute these findings to the participants’ circadian rhythm, or body clock, which affects various metabolic processes, including glucose regulation. The circadian rhythm varies throughout the day, with certain hormones and enzymes peaking and falling at specific times. For instance, cortisol, a stress hormone that increases blood sugar levels, is highest in the morning and gradually declines throughout the day. On the other hand, melatonin, a sleep hormone that promotes insulin sensitivity, is highest in the evening and night. Therefore, exercising in the afternoon may take advantage of the body’s natural insulin-sensitizing response and cortisol reduction, leading to better blood sugar control.

However, the study also acknowledges some limitations and notes that the sample size was small and consisted only of men, so the results may not be generalizable to the entire population. Moreover, the study did not examine the long-term effects of exercising in the afternoon on type 2 diabetes management or other health outcomes. Therefore, further research is needed to confirm these findings and establish the best exercise timing for people with type 2 diabetes.

Nonetheless, the study’s implications are significant, especially for people with busy schedules or morning-related challenges, such as the dawn phenomenon, which causes a surge in blood sugar levels in the morning due to the body’s natural release of hormones like cortisol and glucagon. Exercising in the afternoon may offer an alternative option for managing blood sugar levels without having to wake up extra early or interfere with nighttime routines. Moreover, exercising in the afternoon may also have other benefits, such as improving sleep quality, reducing stress levels, and boosting mood.

But what types of exercises are best for people with type 2 diabetes, and how much do they need to do? The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous aerobic exercise per week, spread over at least three days with no more than two consecutive days off. Examples of aerobic exercises include brisk walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, dancing, or using cardio machines such as treadmills, ellipticals, or rowers. Resistance or strength training exercises, such as weightlifting, push-ups, lunges, or squats, are also beneficial as they help build muscle and bone density, and increase insulin sensitivity. The ADA recommends doing such exercises at least twice a week, targeting all major muscle groups.

However, as with any exercise regimen, people with type 2 diabetes should consult their healthcare provider before starting or changing their routine. This is especially important if they have other health conditions that may affect their ability to exercise or if they take medications that affect their blood sugar levels, such as insulin, sulfonylureas, or meglitinides. Likewise, people should also monitor their blood sugar levels before, during, and after exercise, adjust their medication doses or snacks accordingly, and heed warning signs such as dizzy spells, nausea, or chest pains that may indicate low blood sugar or other complications.

In conclusion, exercising in the afternoon may offer additional benefits for people with type 2 diabetes who want to manage their blood sugar levels effectively. Although further research is needed to confirm these findings and establish the optimal exercise timing for different individuals, afternoon exercise may take advantage of the body’s natural circadian rhythm responses and improve insulin sensitivity and glucose regulation. However, people with type 2 diabetes should consult their healthcare provider before starting or changing their exercise routine, monitor their blood sugar levels carefully, and follow the American Diabetes Association’s recommendations for aerobic and resistance training. With the right balance of physical activity and lifestyle changes, people with type 2 diabetes can live a healthier and more fulfilling life.