Will Evening Exercise Reduce Insulin Levels?

Approximately 35 million adults in the United States currently live with type 2 diabetes.

Nearly 100 million adults in the US (more than 1 in 3 people) have prediabetes, which means they already have higher than normal blood sugar levels and a high risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

This public health crisis highlights the importance of finding the most effective ways to prevent, manage, and reverse diabetes and its underlying risk factors.

Type 2 Diabetes and Insulin Resistance

When you eat any carbohydrate, your body breaks it down into glucose (blood sugar) and releases it into your bloodstream. In response, your pancreas produces insulin, a hormone that helps shuttle glucose from your bloodstream into your cells to be used for energy.

Some people—typically after many years of unhealthy eating and not enough exercise—develop insulin resistance. This means that their cells have become less responsive to insulin. As a result, blood sugar stays elevated in the bloodstream instead of passing into your tissues.

This is the characteristic feature of prediabetes and type 2 diabetes.

If your blood sugar stays high and unmanaged, it can cause serious and potentially life-threatening health problems, including heart disease, kidney disease, and nerve damage.

Exercise Helps Improve Insulin Sensitivity

Physical activity is one of the best things you can do to improve your insulin sensitivity.

Working your muscles enhances the activity of key proteins involved in insulin signaling and glucose uptake. This causes an immediate improvement in insulin sensitivity that can last up to 48 hours after just one single exercise.

A consistent exercise routine can create long-term changes in your skeletal muscle, making it even more insulin responsive. It also helps to stimulate lipid oxidation (fat burning), which may further help to reduce insulin resistance.

Is Evening Exercise Better?

A new study published in November 2022 in the journal Diabetologia examined the effect of exercise timing on insulin resistance.

The researchers concluded that moderate-to-vigorous activity in the afternoon or evening was associated with up to 25% reduction in insulin resistance. They did not observe the same association with morning exercise.

However, the study had a few limitations regarding observation duration and the number of participants. This research indicates that the timing of physical activity may be an influential factor to consider when trying to improve insulin sensitivity, but more research is needed in this area.

Any amount of physical activity is generally better than none at all. Ultimately, the best time to exercise is the best time for you and your schedule.