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Evening exercise can reduce major health risks of obesity

The timing of exercise has a substantial influence on health outcomes, particularly among those who are managing obesity, according to recent study from the University of Sydney.

The experts found that evening exercise was linked to greater health benefits among obese individuals.

Evening exercise: The healthiest choice?

For the investigation, researchers in the Charles Perkins Centre analyzed data from nearly 30,000 participants. This analysis covered a span of almost eight years.

They focused on physical activities tracked by wearable devices to determine whether the time of day affected health outcomes.

Surprising benefits of evening exercise

The study revealed significant findings about the timing of exercise. Moderate to vigorous exercise, which increases heart rate and breathing, proved particularly beneficial when performed in the evening.

The results showed that individuals who performed most of their aerobic moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) between 6 PM and midnight had the lowest risk of premature death. They also experienced a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.

Dr. Angelo Sabag, a lecturer in Exercise Physiology at the University of Sydney, emphasized the broader context of these findings.

“Around two in three Australians are affected by excess weight or obesity, which significantly increases the risk of heart attacks, stroke, and premature death. While exercise alone isn’t the sole solution to the obesity crisis, our research suggests that timing it effectively may help mitigate some health risks,” noted Dr. Sabag.

Beyond the gym: Everyday activities count too

The research did not limit itself to structured exercises; it also considered any continuous physical activity lasting three minutes or longer.

Dr. Matthew Ahmadi is a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Sydney and joint first author of the study. He clarified the scope of the activities that were monitored for the analysis.

“We didn’t discriminate on the kind of activity we tracked, it could be anything from power walking to climbing the stairs, but could also include structured exercise such as running, occupational labour or even vigorously cleaning the house,” said Dr Ahmadi.

Rigorous research and reliable results

The participants were all over the age of 40 years old and living with obesity. For one week at the start of the study, the individuals were monitored 24 hours a day using a wrist accelerometer.

Health outcomes were then tracked through data linked from the National Health Services and National Records of Scotland over nearly eight years. This tracking included recording numerous health events and mortalities.

To enhance the reliability of their findings, the researchers controlled for various variables such as age, sex, lifestyle habits, and baseline health conditions.

The researchers noted that while the length of the study follow-up and additional sensitivity analysis bolster the strength of their findings, they cannot completely rule out potential reverse causation, which is the possibility that some participants had lower aerobic activity levels due to underlying or undiagnosed disease.

Wearable technology in health research

Professor Emmanuel Stamatakis, director of the Mackenzie Wearables Research Hub at the Charles Perkins Centre and senior author on the paper, highlighted the potential of wearable technology in health research. He noted that the sophistication of studies in the wearables field is providing huge insights into the patterns of activity that are most beneficial for health.

“It is a really exciting time for researchers in this field and practitioners alike, as wearable device-captured data allow us to examine physical activity patterns at a very high resolution and accurately translate findings into advice that could play an important role in health care.”

Exercise timing and obesity interventions

The research opens up new avenues for tailored health care interventions. For individuals battling obesity, evening exercise could be a valuable addition to their health management strategy.

 “While we need to do further research to establish causal links, this study suggests that the timing of physical activity could be an important part of the recommendations for future obesity and Type 2 diabetes management, and preventive healthcare in general,” said Professor Stamatakis.

The study is published in the journal Diabetes Care.


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