A new study
In a recent University of Illinois study, it has been shown that the diversity of gut bacteria can be modified through exercise alone. The participants were sedentary adults (of various weights) who were studied over a 6 week period, during the study they continued to eat normally. The one change to their lifestyles during this period was the introduction of an exercise regime.
The participants took part in a supervised exercise program, which involved 30–60 minutes of endurance exercise, 3 days per week, for the length of the programme. Once the programme ended the subjects were required to revert to sedentary behaviour for a further 6 weeks.
The researchers found that during the period the participants took part in the exercise programme, their bodies showed an increase in the production of short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) in particular, butyrate, which promotes healthy intestinal cells, reduces inflammation, fights insulin resistance and generates energy. Interestingly, leaner participants produced more butyrate than obese participants. SCFA production is of particular interest to researchers given research supporting the theory that they play an important role in the maintenance of health and the prevention of disease
Another link between gut health and exercise comes from a study from Cork University which found that in comparing professional rugby players with a control group that the athletes had a higher diversity of gut micro-organisms and had lower inflammatory and improved metabolic markers relative to the controls. The researchers found that “exercise is another important factor in the relationship between the microbiota, host immunity and host metabolism, with diet playing an important role”.
What this means
So it appears that exercise is not only good for the waistline, building strength and improving mental wellbeing, it is also a boon for gut health. Exercise really is the elixir of youth.