If you’re one of the millions of folks living with type 2 diabetes, you know that regular exercise can help you keep your blood sugar in check.
Now, new research suggests that working out 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 researchers have some theories.
“If we exercise after a meal, it may be more beneficial than after fasting, and if you exercise in the afternoon, it is likely after a meal,” say study author Jingyi Qian. She is an associate physiologist and associate director of the medical chronobiology program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
By contrast, folks who work out in the morning may not eat breakfast until after they are finished.
This doesn’t mean that you should skip your workout if you can’t find time in the afternoon, Qian cautions. “The best time to exercise is whenever you can and wherever you can.”
For the study, more than 2,400 people with type 2 diabetes wore a device on their waist that tracked physical activity for a week when the study began and four years later. They were grouped based on the time of day that they exercised at one year and four years.
Afternoon exercisers, those who worked out between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m., showed a greater improvement in blood sugar control at one year, which was maintained after four years. What’s more, the folks who exercised in the afternoon were more likely to no longer need glucose-lowering diabetes medications.
The study didn’t look at specific types of exercise. “This is an emerging area, and we will know more with more studies,” Qian shares.
It’s too early to make any sweeping recommendations about the best time of day to exercise for people with type 2 diabetes, says Tanya Halliday, an assistant professor in the department of health and kinesiology at the University of Utah Health.
“We don’t yet know if the timing of exercise itself influenced these outcomes or if there are differences between people who