Of the more than 37 million people in the U.S. who live with diabetes, 90 to 95 percent have Type 2 diabetes, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports. Symptoms of the chronic condition, which is linked with high blood sugar and most often develops in those over age 45, include frequent urination, increased hunger and thirst, fatigue, blurred vision, numbness in the hands and feet, and sores that take a long time to heal, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Sometimes, however, people live with Type 2 diabetes for years without noticing any symptoms at all, they write. This is concerning, since having diabetes increases your risk of many other conditions, such as dementia, heart disease, and kidney disease.
The good news is that several healthy habits can help reduce your risk of Type 2 diabetes—and a new study says that implementing one of them in the afternoon, rather than in the morning, may have greater benefits. Read on to find out what it is, and if you should follow it.
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As prevalent as Type 2 diabetes is, whether or not you develop it is largely within your control. “While certain people are predisposed to Type 2 diabetes due to their genetics, lifestyle plays the predominant role in the onset of the disease,” reports Verywell Health, noting that “having a genetic disposition for Type 2 diabetes does not mean you will get it. The choices you make with respect to diet and exercise can ultimately determine if you get the disease or not.”
Obesity is the number one risk factor for the condition, and risk factors for obesity include eating a diet high in saturated fats, sugary foods, and sugar-sweetened beverages. Lack of exercise and not getting enough sleep can also increase your risk of Type 2 diabetes.
Latinx, Black, and Asian people have higher rates of diabetes, Verywell Health writes, citing a 2019 CDC study, making it even more important for people of those ethnicities to eat a healthy diet and get plenty of exercise.
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Insulin is a hormone that regulates blood sugar in your body—and we can’t live without it, explains the CDC. When you develop insulin resistance, they write, “the pancreas pumps out more insulin to get blood sugar into cells.” This imbalance throws your whole system “out of whack,” leading to weight gain, prediabetes, and, eventually, Type 2 diabetes. A family history of Type 2 diabetes, being overweight, and leading a sedentary lifestyle all increase your chance of developing insulin resistance.
Keeping tabs on your blood sugar and cholesterol levels is key in preventing insulin resistance, and Type 2 diabetes. “If you have high blood sugar levels, high triglycerides (a kind of blood fat), high LDL (‘bad’) cholesterol, and low HDL (‘good’) cholesterol, your health care provider may determine you have insulin resistance,” the CDC writes.
Getting regular exercise is a great way to help reduce your risk of insulin resistance, and therefore your diabetes risk—and a new study published in the journal Diabetologia found a link between the time of day you work out and how your insulin levels respond.
Researchers looked at data collected from over 6,000 people between the ages of 45 and 65 and selected a group of 775 study participants with an average age of 56. They then divided them into three groups and monitored their activity at different times of day: between 6 a.m. and noon (morning), noon and 6 p.m. (afternoon) and 6 p.m. to midnight (evening).
The findings? Those who exercised in the afternoon or evening saw a significant reduction in insulin resistance—18 percent less for those who were active in the afternoon, and 25 percent for those who exercised in the evening. Morning exercise, meanwhile, seemingly had no effect on insulin resistance.
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Best Life asked Joel French, PhD, Head of Fitness Science at Tempo, for his take on the study—and while he acknowledges that it is “a solid study, published in a respected, peer-reviewed journal,” he says “there is limited evidence out there showing that time of day is a factor in insulin resistance and blood sugar control. There are more studies that actually find that exercise improves insulin sensitivity and prevents Type 2 diabetes, regardless of time of day.”
French cites a 2010 joint statement by the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Diabetes Association, which he says is “a good summary of deeper research done in this area. I am far more comfortable making decisions based on a large volume of published studies versus a single study.” Based on that statement, he explains, “I would prefer that [my clients] exercise whenever it’s most convenient for them, and not create another barrier to exercising at all. But if more or stronger evidence comes out in the future, I may change my mind.”
“Folks dealing with obesity, pre-diabetes, or metabolic syndrome often really struggle with exercise,” French says. “Finding the right way to exercise, the time to exercise, and making it enjoyable is difficult enough without telling them that they need to exercise later in the day.”