Afternoon Workouts Can Help People with Obesity, Diabetes

Janet Tiberian Author
By Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES
August 15, 2023
Cycling outdoors in the afternoon

There’s a new term for an epidemic you’re probably aware of: Diabesity. It probably sounds a little melodramatic, but it is the largest epidemic in human history, according to a study published in Clinical Diabetes and Endocrinology.

What is diabesity? It’s a relatively new term to describe having both obesity and type 2 diabetes. More than 100 million American adults and 14.7 million children are obese. And more than 37 million Americans have diabetes, and between 90 and 95 percent of these cases is type 2 diabetes. While most people with type 2 diabetes generally develops in adults over age 45, the number of young adults, teenagers and children diagnosed with it are growing.

What’s the connection between the two conditions? Between 80 and 90 percent of people with type 2 diabetes are overweight or obese, according to a study published in Frontiers in Public Health.  

“One of the most valuable approaches to preventing and managing both obesity and type 2 diabetes is physical activity,” says Bernard Kaminetsky, MD, medical director, MDVIP. “Moderate to vigorous intensity exercise is generally recommended for weight issues and type 2 diabetes.”  

Regular moderate to vigorous intensity exercise is credited with helping control weight, blood sugar and insulin resistance and reducing your risk for obesity and diabetes. It also helps improve blood pressure, raise good cholesterol and control depression and anxiety, lowering your chance of a heart attack and stroke -- two leading complications of both obesity and type 2 diabetes. It also helps drop the risk of heart disease, cancer and premature death.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend Americans get up to 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous each week. Here are some examples. 

  • Moderately intense activities: brisk walking, light cycling with a few small hills, doubles tennis and water aerobics classes.
  • Vigorously intense activities: hiking, jogging, heavy cycling, singles tennis, basketball or soccer.

Studies suggest that the timing of your work outs also is important, whether your goal is fighting obesity or type 2 diabetes. For instance, moderately intense exercise performed in the afternoon can improve blood sugar control in diabetes, especially within the first year of beginning to work out, according to a study published in the American Diabetes Association’s journal Diabetes Care.

Researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital conducted an observational study that involved following more than 2,400 participants (57 percent were women and the average age was 59) for four years to determine if the time of day in which moderate to vigorous exercise is performed affects blood sugar control in overweight/obese adults with type 2 diabetes.

Participants wore an accelerometer around their waist for seven days at the start of the study and for another week four years later to track their physical activity. Participants were grouped by the time of day they worked out. After analyzing results, researchers found participants who exercised between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m.:

  • Had better blood sugar control at the beginning of the study and were able to maintain it four years later.
  • Likely no longer needed their diabetes medications.

“These findings also pair nicely with exercising in the afternoon,” says Kaminetsky. “Yes, morning workouts are typically credited with fat burning benefits; however, afternoon workouts also have ties to weight loss.”

The body’s ability to exercise is at its height between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. During this period, it’s often easier to perform longer, more intense workouts, which can lead you to burn more calories. But more importantly, high-intensity exercise in the afternoon and early evening can elicit sound sleep, according to the Sleep Foundation. And good sleep is an integral component of weight management, as sleep deprivation often depletes energy levels, affecting the amount of physical activity you get into your day. It also can interfere with metabolism and trigger cravings for junk food.

“Before beginning or changing a workout, consult your physician,” says Kaminetsky.

If you don’t have a primary care physician, consider partnering with an MDVIP-affiliated doctor. They can work with you to help you better manage your blood sugar and weight. Find an MDVIP affiliate near you and begin your partnership in health »

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About the Author
Janet Tiberian Author
Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES

Janet Tiberian is MDVIP's health educator. She has more than 25 years experience in chronic disease prevention and therapeutic exercise.

View All Posts By Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES
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