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Is there an ideal time for diabetics to work out for better blood sugar control?

Monitor your blood glucose values before starting an exercise schedule and after completion of the workout. "It should not exceed 230 mg/dL or should not be below 100 mg/dL, said Garima Goyal, a registered dietitian

exerciseWhat is the best time for diabetics to workout? (Source: Getty Images/Thinkstock)

We are not here to reiterate the numerous benefits of working out; by now, we all know and understand them thoroughly. But, did you know that working out at a specific time can have more benefits? A new study led by Dr Jeroen van der Velde at Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands, which was published in Diabetologia, suggests that exercising in the latter half of the day — as compared to morning activity and activity spread evenly over the day — may be more beneficial for health as it could bring down blood sugar levels and cut insulin resistance up to a quarter.

As part of the research — which used data from the Netherlands Epidemiology of Obesity (NEO) study — participants underwent a physical examination during which blood samples were taken to measure fasting and after-meal blood glucose and insulin levels. The demographic, lifestyle, and clinical information were obtained via a questionnaire, mentioned the analysis.

“Most daily activities are of light intensity and because we did not observe an association between LPA (lipoprotein (a) which increases the likelihood of stroke, and other metabolic conditions), and insulin resistance. This may also explain the lack of an association between breaks and insulin resistance,” the researchers added while urging that “further studies” should assess whether the timing of physical activity is indeed important for the occurrence of type 2 diabetes. The researchers further noted that the results could be due to the intensity of the activity during the breaks which was too light to cause metabolic responses.

Considering the study, we reached out to experts to understand if there is an ideal time for diabetics to work out for better sugar control, and cut insulin resistance risk.

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Try aerobic exercises, muscle strengthening exercises (Photo: Getty/Thinkstock)

Doing aerobic-exercise for 150 minutes or more in a week has shown to improve the body’s cells’ insulin sensitivity and blood glucose homeostasis, according to the World Health Organization. “Also strength training has its advantages as more a person has muscle mass, better is her/his ability to handle blood sugars because muscles need energy for functioning, whose source is stored sugars in the body and blood sugars,” said Garima Goyal, a registered dietitian.

The expert added that any form of physical activity at any time of the day is beneficial regardless of the form of activity. “Being active improves the body’s glucose homeostasis and improves the body’s cells’ response to insulin. Although researches have found out a link between better health outcomes in diabetics and physical activity in the latter part of the day, it is still inconclusive that whether every age group, all body types or patients with co morbidities will be benefitted,” Goyal elucidated, adding that “not everyone can find time in the evenings”.

Dr Jitendra Kumar, chairman – Renal Sciences and Transplant Medicine, Accord Superspecialty Hospital, Faridabad said that “exercising between 2-6 pm is considered much better than early mornings”. “This is mainly because our core body temperature is higher during evenings as compared to mornings. Therefore, the warm-up time required is shorter during evenings. Apart from this, our muscles have more strength and are flexible such that we have more endurance for exercise during evening hours,” Dr Kumar told indianexpress.com.

Does it apply to diabetics too?

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According to Dr Kumar, diabetics have better insulin resistance and better sugar control when they exercise in the evenings. “This is why children are always advised evening play time. Hormones produced during exercise in the evenings helps build muscle mass, while endorphins induce sleep, and help fight stress,” said Dr Kumar.

While working out in the mornings, many would be on prolonged fasting which is not very good for diabetics as it can make the sugar too low. “But evening exercise ensures calories eaten during the day are burnt and sugar is better controlled,” Dr Kumar noted.

What kind of exercises should diabetics do?

Include 2-3 sessions of strength training on non-consecutive days. Each training session should include 5-10 exercises of the major muscle groups and involve 10-15 repetitions, said Goyal, who is also a fitness expert.

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“So, strength training and core training with dumbbells, push-ups, sit-ups and resistance exercises play a crucial role in maintaining metabolic health in diabetics. It is suggested that a diabetic should perform both aerobic and resistance exercise training for optimal glycemic and health outcomes. Also daily exercise or at least not allowing more than two days to elapse between exercise sessions is recommended to improve cells’ insulin sensitivity,” Goyal told indianexpress.com.

Agreed Dr Ravi Shekhar Jha, director and head, pulmonology, Fortis Hospitals, Faridabad and said that the best time to exercise is “1 to 3 hours after meal when your blood sugar level is highest”. “If your blood sugar level is too low, then you can consume some fruit before exercising. If your blood sugar level is too high (like in the range of 300 mg/dl or more), you should avoid doing exercise as it may initially raise the blood sugar level reactionarily,” Dr Jha told this outlet, adding that “when there is smog or pollution, we must avoid doing any outdoor exercise as it may be detrimental for our heart and lungs”.

Goyal listed tips for exercising for diabetics

– Along with being physically active, drink plenty of fluids for keeping the cells hydrated.
– Monitor your blood glucose values before starting an exercise schedule and after completion of the workout. “It should not exceed 230 mg/dL or should not be below 100 mg/dL,” Goyal noted.
– Start the workout with small bouts of low intensity exercise and gradually build up the pace.
– Keep a carbohydrate snack handy for any hypoglycaemic episode and consume it as soon as you feel tired or dizzy.
– Wear comfortable cotton socks and athletic shoes while exercising and keep a note on any sores, blisters or cuts in feet and immediately report to the healthcare provider.

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First published on: 07-11-2022 at 11:30 IST
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