Little is known about the impact of timing as opposed to frequency and intensity of daily physical activity on metabolic health. Therefore, we assessed the association between accelerometery-based daily timing of physical activity and measures of metabolic health in sedentary older people.
Hourly mean physical activity derived from wrist-worn accelerometers over a 6-day period was collected at baseline and after 3 months in sedentary participants from the Active and Healthy Ageing study. A principal component analysis (PCA) was performed to reduce the number of dimensions (e.g. define periods instead of separate hours) of hourly physical activity at baseline and change during follow-up. Cross-sectionally, a multivariable-adjusted linear regression analysis was used to associate the principal components, particularly correlated with increased physical activity in data-driven periods during the day, with body mass index (BMI), fasting glucose and insulin, HbA1c and the homeostatic model assessment for insulin resistance (HOMA-IR). For the longitudinal analyses, we calculated the hourly changes in physical activity and change in metabolic health after follow-up.
We included 207 individuals (61.4% male, mean age: 64.8 [SD 2.9], mean BMI: 28.9 [4.7]). Higher physical activity in the early morning was associated with lower fasting glucose (−2.22%, 95% CI: −4.19, −0.40), fasting insulin (−13.54%, 95%CI: −23.49, −4.39), and HOMA-IR (−16.07%, 95%CI: −27.63, −5.65). Higher physical activity in the late afternoon to evening was associated with lower BMI (−2.84%, 95% CI: −4.92, −0.70). Higher physical activity at night was associated with higher BMI (2.86%, 95% CI: 0.90, 4.78), fasting glucose (2.57%, 95% CI: 0.70, 4.30), and HbA1c (2.37%, 95% CI: 1.00, 3.82). Similar results were present in the prospective analysis.
Specific physical activity timing patterns were associated with more beneficial metabolic health, suggesting particular time-dependent physical activity interventions might maximise health benefits.
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The AGO study was financially supported by Philips Consumer Lifestyle, and the Netherlands Genomics Initiative/Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NGI/NOW) (grant numbers: 05040202 and 050–060–810). DvH and RN were supported by the VELUX Stiftung (grant number 1156). RN was supported by an innovation grant from the Dutch Heart Foundation [grant number 2019T103]. The funders had no role in the design, analyses and interpretation of the results of the study.
The authors declare no competing interests.
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Albalak, G., Stijntjes, M., Wijsman, C.A. et al. Timing of objectively-collected physical activity in relation to body weight and metabolic health in sedentary older people: a cross-sectional and prospective analysis. Int J Obes 46, 515–522 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41366-021-01018-7