August 9, 2023
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Here’s a surprise. Exercising is more effective if you take a brisk walk, ride a bicycle, or jog later in the day rather than in the morning.
The reason might be that our muscles tend to be stronger in the late afternoon than at other times of the day.
The university study that came to this conclusion applied their findings to diabetes. They point out that you are less likely to develop the disease if you are physically active later in the day.
The finding is relevant to everyone, of course, but those who spend a lot of time sitting during the day or are at a risk of contracting diabetes might particularly want to take note.
The researchers note that these findings should be taken into account when experts provide lifestyle advice.
The study, conducted at the Department of Clinical Epidemiology at Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands, found that physical activity later in the day is linked to better blood sugar control.
They found that moderate to vigorous exercise in the afternoon or evening rather than in the morning was also linked to lower insulin resistance compared with an even distribution of such exercise during the day.
Many people around the world put on weight during the pandemic because they were failing to exercise and sat for long times during the day, the study authors explain.
This behavior, they add, not only can cause obesity but also can increase the chance that you will develop metabolic diseases, including Type 2 diabetes.
Up to now studies have shown that:
• Short breaks from prolonged sitting during the day can improve your heart health.
• Regular interruptions or light exercise taken during long periods of sitting or standing lead to lower levels of fat in a person’s body. They also lead to lower blood glucose, which shows there has been an improvement in blood sugar levels.
• Taking breaks from sitting for a long time is linked to a reduction in liver fat and an improvement in insulin sensitivity.
The researchers note that in addition to the length of time that we spend sitting some scientists suggest that the timing of physical activity during the day might be a factor in our overall health.
Studies in this regard have been inconclusive up to now, however, and few studies have been conducted on humans, the researchers note.
The team therefore set out to investigate the links between the timing of breaks from sitting and the build-up of liver fat as well as insulin resistance in middle-aged people.
The study was conducted on 775 men and women in the Leiden area aged between 45 and 65. They all had a body-mass indeed (BMI) of more than 26.2. None had diabetes.
The researchers divided the day into three segments: Morning (6 a.m. to noon); Afternoon (noon to 6 p.m.) and Evening (6 p.m. to midnight).
Researchers took blood samples from the volunteers at regular intervals to measure their insulin and blood sugar levels.
Activity was recorded using a heart-rate monitor and an accelerometer worn for four continuous days and nights.
The researchers found that:
• A higher amount of physical activity—and particularly moderate to vigorous physical activity—resulted in reduced fat content in the liver and lower insulin resistance.
• Moderate to vigorous physical exercise taken during the afternoon or evening was linked to a 25% lowering of insulin resistance compared with moderate to vigorous physical exercise that was distributed evenly throughout the day.
• The researchers found no link between the amount of time spent sitting and the number of breaks when they were compared with insulin resistance or the content of liver fat. The authors suggest that in their study the activity during the breaks was too light to cause any response.
• Muscular strength and the function of muscle cells peak in the late afternoon, suggesting that when you are more active at that time the effect on your health might be more significant than when activity is taken earlier in the day.
The study appears in the journal Diabetologia.