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Exercise At This Time Of Day For Healthier Blood Sugar  

Gretchen Lidicker, M.S.
June 9, 2023
Gretchen Lidicker, M.S.
mbg Health Contributor
By Gretchen Lidicker, M.S.
mbg Health Contributor
Gretchen Lidicker earned her master’s degree in physiology with a focus on alternative medicine from Georgetown University. She is the author of “CBD Oil Everyday Secrets” and “Magnesium Everyday Secrets.”
Couples working out
Image by JAVIER DÍEZ / Stocksy
June 9, 2023

Morning exercise gets a lot of praise and attention. "It's the best way to start your day!" They say. "You'll feel great!" But if you struggle to set up a morning exercise routine and instead like to do your exercise in the afternoon—great news! A new study shows that your exercise routine might be better for blood sugar health. 

New study on blood sugar and afternoon exercise 

Recent statistics show that around one-third1 of Americans have a blood sugar problem, either in the form of diabetes or prediabetes. No matter who you are, it's worth investing some effort in optimizing your blood sugar. Luckily, this new study from researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Massachusetts provides us with a key piece of practical information. 

This study analyzed data from a large randomized controlled trial on people with diagnosed Type 2 diabetes called the Look AHEAD (Action for Health in Diabetes) study. The Look AHEAD study tested different intensive lifestyle interventions and diabetes support and education on a group of participants for four years. These researchers examined data from year one and year four of the intervention, looking for trends associated with the timing and quantity of physical activity and its effect on blood sugar.

They found that afternoon exercisers had the largest improvements in blood sugar. 

Exercise as a powerful tool for blood sugar health 

Over 90% of the diabetes cases in the United States are Type 2 diabetes, which is the type of diabetes linked to lifestyle factors like the standard American diet, a sedentary lifestyle, and obesity and metabolic syndrome.

It's possible to prevent and sometimes even manage Type 2 diabetes through lifestyle factors like diet and exercise, and many clinicians already recommend these interventions. In fact, study participants in the afternoon exercise group also had the highest chance of being able to transition off their diabetes medications.

As one of the co-authors of the study, Jingyi Qian, Ph.D., explained in a news release: "We've known that physical activity is beneficial, but what our study adds is a new understanding that timing of activity may be important too." So while it takes a lot of willpower to roll out of bed and straight into the gym, a fitness class, or onto the Peleton, afternoon exercisers now have something to tout. 

How to support blood sugar today 

This study provides us with evidence that for the millions of Americans with Type 2 diabetes, exercising in the afternoon may be the best way to get the most benefit from exercise. And who doesn't want to get the most bang for their buck? If you want to avoid a blood sugar imbalance, you can start today! Here are some tips to get you started: 

Exercise (whenever you can!) 

One of the foundations of healthy blood sugar is physical activity. If you can't exercise in the afternoon—still do it! Morning, afternoon, evening—it doesn't matter. The most important thing is that you do it at all! 

Take breaks from sitting 

It's not just the lack of physical exercise that harms our blood sugar health, it's the fact that many of us sit at a desk all day. But a recent study showed that five minutes of walking for every 30 minutes of sitting was the most beneficial for blood sugar and cardiovascular health. If you can, try to get up and walk twice an hour! 

Reduce sugar intake 

The average American eats a lot of sugar—an average of 17 teaspoons2 of added sugar per day, to be exact! To reduce sugar cravings, try focusing on healthy proteins and fats, like omega-3 fatty acids. Here are 15 of the top omega-3 supplements you can buy.

Eat fiber 

Fiber, which is found in plant-based foods like leafy greens, cruciferous veggies, fruits, nuts, and seeds, is key for healthy blood sugar because it slows the digestion of carbohydrates.

This prevents your blood sugar from spiking and minimizes the damage associated with it. 

One 2016 study found that people who took a daily guar fiber supplement had lower levels of glucose in their blood following a meal (which is the goal of blood sugar balance).

Unfortunately, research shows that 95% of people don't get enough fiber3 on a regular basis. To make sure you're on your way to meeting your fiber goals, consider adding a well-formulated fiber supplement to your routine. Here are 12 of our favorites, all vetted by a nutrition scientist Ph.D.

Manage stress

Chronic stress is one of the lesser-known contributors to Type 2 diabetes! And unfortunately, it's a double-edged sword since stress is linked to sugar cravings. This can create a snowball effect of stress and sugar cravings. 

The takeaway

A new study shows that getting your physical activity in the afternoon may be the most blood-sugar-friendly option. But even if you can't exercise in the afternoon, rest assured you're still doing one of the most important things for blood sugar health by getting your physical activity. 

Gretchen Lidicker, M.S. author page.
Gretchen Lidicker, M.S.
mbg Health Contributor

Gretchen Lidicker is an mbg health contributor, content strategist, and the author of CBD Oil Everyday Secrets: A Lifestyle Guide to Hemp-Derived Health and Wellness and Magnesium Everyday Secrets: A Lifestyle Guide to Epsom Salts, Magnesium Oil, and Nature's Relaxation Mineral. She holds a B.S. in biology and earned her master’s degree in physiology with a concentration in complementary and alternative medicine from Georgetown University.