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What time of day is best to beat diabetes?

Does the impact of exercise vary based on the time of day?

<p>Exercise can be hard work at any age, but the endless benefits are well worth the effort. [Source: Shutterstock]</p>

Exercise can be hard work at any age, but the endless benefits are well worth the effort. [Source: Shutterstock]

Key points:

  • If you have health problems, talk to your doctor or physiotherapist about modified sport or exercise
  • Exercising in the correct way can increase health outcomes relative to the effort being exerted


This edition of Aged Care Guide will cover everything you need to know about exercising in a time-effective manner, based on new research from the European Association for the Study of Diabetes.

In 2020/21, the number of Australians living with diabetes was one in 20, but for the older population of Australia, the rate was roughly four times higher. For those over 75 years old, nearly one in five were diagnosed with the condition.

The most common type, as reported by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, was type 2 — 85.5 percent — which remains the only type that can be prevented in up to 58 percent of cases.

Physical activity is a preventive factor for type 2 diabetes, however, the timing and method of exercising may play a role in the overall health benefits stemming from a good workout.

For more information about type 2 diabetes, please visit the Guide to Prevention.

When should I exercise?

New research, published in Diabetologia, found that morning and afternoon physical activity was associated with a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes across all population levels of education and income.

However, there was no statistically significant association between exercising at night and the onset of type 2 diabetes, according to the study led by Dr Caiwei Tian and Dr Chirag Patel from Harvard Medical School.

A cohort of 93,095 study participants based in the United Kingdom, with a mean age of 62 years and without a history of type 2 diabetes, were assessed for their risk of developing the condition.

Researchers determined that consistency of physical activity was not associated with developing type 2 diabetes, based on accelerometer data provided by participants over the course of a week.

“The consistency or routine of physical activity was not strongly associated with type 2 diabetes,” the authors stated.

“In other words, individuals who exercise a smaller amount of time more frequently are at no lesser risk for diabetes than individuals who exercise the same total amount, but with less of a routine.”

How should I exercise?

Although researchers did not find a link between consistency in exercise and reduced risk, there were statistically significant differences in the intensity of exercise for T2D-related health outcomes.

“The findings also suggest it is helpful to include some higher intensity activity to help reduce the risk of developing diabetes and other cardiovascular disease,” the authors concluded.


However, exercise can be beneficial for the brain and staying mentally sharp may be worth the sweat from an afternoon jog.


The results of an Australian research study published in 2022 found that a 12-month, high-intensity power training program had no superior effects on cognitive function in older adults with T2D compared with a low-intensity, sham exercise condition.

However, cognition improved in both groups over time, which is unexpected in an older cohort with T2D and multiple comorbidities.

Realistically, older people should seek to modulate the intensity of their workout based on:

  • The advice of their doctor
  • Any sense of discomfort or pain they may experience
  • Accessibility
  • Safety concerns when exercising alone
  • Time availability


For people aged 65 years and over, the Department of Health recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity on most, preferably all, days.

If you consider 30 minutes to be difficult right now, it is recommended that you start with just 10 minutes once or twice a day. After 2 weeks, increase to 15 minutes twice a day.

How do you stay in shape? Let the team at Aged Care Guide know! For more information about health and well-being, subscribe to the Talking Aged Care newsletter.

For more information about fitness, check out: ‘Keeping physically healthy in your old age.’

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