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Why exercising in afternoon or evening could be more effective for diabetics?

Study says afternoon and evening exercise are good for diabetics. Dr Ambarish Mithal, Chairman and Head, Endocrinology and Diabetes, Max Healthcare, recommends resistance training twice a week to prevent muscle loss and improve insulin activity.

Walking around through the day and five to ten minutes of post-meal activity can be of great help, the doctor said. (Photo: Pixabay)

Do you like your morning walks? A new study from the Netherlands suggests moderate to vigorous physical activity in the afternoons and evenings is better at lowering insulin resistance as compared to such activity in the mornings. A cell becoming resistant to insulin is one of the abnormalities that leads to type II diabetes.

The researchers, who were looking at the impact of sedentary lifestyle on liver fat content and insulin resistance, found that insulin resistance lowered at almost the same rate in people who had the physical activity distributed evenly across the day (5 per cent) and in those who exercised in the mornings (3 per cent).

In comparison, people who did their moderate to vigorous physical activities in the afternoons (12 noon to 6 pm) the insulin resistance went down by 18 per cent and those who did it in the evenings (6 pm to 12 midnight) it went down by 25 per cent, found the researchers who studied the data from 775 persons with a mean age of 56 years and BMI of 26.2.

“We already know if you spend your time just sitting through the day, exercising in the morning may not be sufficient. Unfortunately, the recommendation of 180 minutes of physical activity in a week is inadequate,” said Dr Ambrish Mithal, Chairman and Head of Diabetes and Endocrinology at Max Healthcare.

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So, what do you need to do? Walking around through the day and five to ten minutes of post-meal activity can be of great help, the doctor said.

“There are studies that have shown that just five to ten minutes of post-meal exercise is effective at lowering the sugar levels. We do not recommend this for patients with heart conditions, but it is very good for the diabetics. After meal, people can go for a short walk and do some stretches,” he said, adding that it is important to continue the 40 to 45 minutes of rigorous exercise in the mornings as well to ensure heart health.

“A five-to-ten-minute exercise, while good for sugar control, isn’t enough to build the cardiac reserve. For that, longer duration exercises that push a person a little is important,” said Dr Mithal. For heart health, any aerobic exercises such as brisk walking or aerobics that elevate the heart rate are good. Although traditional yogasana might not help in this, Yoga done at a high pace such as several fast repetitions of Surya Namaskars can also help, said Dr Mithal.


“We are also recommending some form of resistance training now – at least twice a week if people can do weights for ten minutes even – it can help prevent muscle loss. If you prevent muscle loss, you improve insulin activity. It has now been shown that low muscle mass increases resistance to insulin,” said Dr Mithal.

Although, Dr Mithal does not yet recommend doing physical activities only in the afternoon or evenings, it is likely to get more difficult to go for a morning walk with the increase in the levels of pollution in Delhi. “Even so, people should ensure that they get their regular exercise indoors. Nowadays there are several apps that can help.”

The study from the Netherlands, recently published in the journal Diabetologia, states that the time at which the physical activity is done does not have any impact on the liver fat content. Interestingly, the researchers did not see less sedentary time and more breaks in this sedentary time resulting in lower liver fat content or insulin resistance.


“Timing of exercise is a relatively unexplored field in human studies. We observed that moderate to vigorous physical activity in the afternoon or evening, compared with an even distribution of it during the day, was associated with reduced insulin resistance,” the study said.

First published on: 09-11-2022 at 12:10 IST
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