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Working out at a certain time of day might make a big difference

Published Jun 12th, 2024 10:04PM EDT
A woman eating a protein bar and hydrating during exercise.
Image: VlaDee/Adobe

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I run marathons as a side effect of the goal I’m actually trying to achieve. I want to be more active and make up for all the time I spend sitting each day. In turn, more exercise will reduce the risk of putting on weight, improve the health of my cardiovascular system, and reduce the risk of diabetes as I age. Competitive races are the extra challenge that makes all of this training more fun.

I tend to work out mostly in the afternoon or evening, with the weather playing a role in scheduling my workout routines. If data from a new study is accurate, working out in the evening would be even more beneficial if I were overweight when it comes to controlling blood sugar.

Researchers from the University of Granada have concluded that overweight and obese people might be better off scheduling their workout sessions for the evening to improve blood sugar control. If the conclusions are confirmed, an evening workout regimen might reduce the risk of diabetes or help manage the condition after a diagnosis.

Led by Dr. Jonatan R. Ruiz, the researchers enrolled 186 mostly sedentary adults who were either obese or overweight. Half of the participants were women, and the average age was 46.8 years. The body mass index (BMI) was an average of 32.9kg/m2. The participants had at least one metabolic impairment, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, insulin resistance, or blood sugar control issues.

The researchers used accelerometers placed on wrists and continuous glucose-monitoring devices (CGM) to track physical activity and blood sugar levels over 14 days.

The scientists divided the participants into four groups based on the time of day they worked out during the study period. To formulate their conclusions, they analyzed the data for morning, afternoon, evening, and mixed workouts.

Ruiz & Co. showed that people who scheduled more than half of their workout in the evening saw significant improvements in blood sugar levels over the following night and day compared to people who were not active. The results were even better for people with impaired glucose regulation.

People who performed moderate-to-vigorous physical activity during the afternoon also saw lower glucose levels, but the effect wasn’t as strong as that of those who worked out during the evening.

As with any type of new research, more data is needed, as there are limitations. The study is observational, so the researchers could not determine causality between evening workouts and lower glucose levels in the target population. Moreover, the conclusions might not apply to other groups of people, including older adults and people already diagnosed with diabetes.

Also, the study does not account for other factors that might impact glucose levels, like the participants’ diets and stress levels during the period.

Still, this is promising research that might inform medical professionals on how to prescribe exercise to sedentary adults who might be overweight or obese. With additional research, scheduling workouts at the right time of day might help reduce the risk of diabetes or improve treatment.

Does this mean you should change your exercise regimen? You should always talk to your doctor if you have questions.

But whether you’re overweight or not, young or old, and whether you love training in the morning or evening, you should keep being physically active for as long as you can. The researchers do mention previous research in the new study that proved moderate-to-vigorous physical activity improves blood sugar management in overweight and obese adults who are at risk of developing insulin resistance.

For more details, check out the full study at this link.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.