Exercise After Meals to Lower Heart Risk in Type 2 Diabetes

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Exercise and Type 2 diabetes

If you are one of the roughly 29 million people in the United States living with Type 2 diabetes, you have likely been told that exercise is an effective method for helping to manage your blood glucose levels and reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease. Now, a small new study from the University of Missouri-Columbia indicates that exercise after a meal can lower cardiovascular risk more effectively than physical activity at other times of day. Heart disease and stroke are the leading causes of death in people who have diabetes.

To determine the best time to exercise for people with Type 2 diabetes, the researchers recruited 13 obese people with the condition to complete three trials in random order. During one study visit, the participants performed resistance exercises such as leg curls, seated calf raises, and abdominal crunches before eating a moderate-carbohydrate dinner. On another occasion, the volunteers exercised 45 minutes after eating dinner. During the control visit, the participants ate dinner without exercising.

The researchers found that, compared to the nonexercise day, performing resistance exercises prior to dinner only lowered blood sugar levels. Exercising after dinner, however, lowered both sugar and fat levels in the blood, helping to more effectively lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. The improvements in blood sugar and fat levels did not extend into the next day, suggesting that exercising daily after dinner is necessary to maintain the benefits.

“This study shows that it is not just the intensity or duration of exercising that is important but also the timing of when it occurs,” noted researcher Jill A. Kanaley, PhD. “Results from this study show that resistance exercise has its most powerful effect on reducing glucose and fat levels in one’s blood when performed after dinner.”

This information may be particularly useful, Kanaley notes, for health-care providers whose patients are exercising every day without seeing benefits.

Future studies will investigate how exercising in the morning differs from exercising after dinner and how hormone levels affect results.

For more information, read the article “Individuals with Type 2 diabetes should exercise after dinner” or see the study’s abstract in the Journal of Applied Physiology. And for more information about exercising with diabetes, click here.

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