It’s been proven many times that exercise positively affects our health. It reduces stress, inflammation, and minimizes the instances of us seeking medical attention. It only makes sense that it would positively influence our gut microflora as well, doesn’t it? However, how exercise affects your gut microbiome exactly remains a question. A question that scientists and researchers across the globe have worked hard to answer, and here, we’ve got their findings.
What exactly is the gut microbiome?
You are probably already aware that it isn’t only us living inside of our bodies. Billions of tiny microorganisms are our roommates! The majority of these live within our gut, making up the gut microbiome. These microorganisms include bacteria, viruses, fungi, etc.
Now, you may think the presence of bacteria in your stomach is bad, but that isn’t true. In fact, our bodies are dependent on what we call ”good” bacteria. They are responsible for breaking down food and ensuring the balance is retained within our gastrointestinal system. Any changes to their number can cause adverse effects. For instance, when the numbers begin to lower, we start experiencing digestive issues, such as excessive gas, bloating, and constipation. On the other hand, the overgrowth of these bacteria isn’t a good thing, either, as it might cause inflammation of the stomach lining.
While on the topic of inflammation, hundreds of studies have already shown that exercise works towards subsiding it. Physical activity improves blood flow, manages swelling, and thus, decreases inflammation all over the body, your gut included.
How exercise affects your gut microbiome – the link between it and stomach health
The positive influence of exercise on overall health has been the subject of numerous discussions. Now’s the time to break down how exactly it impacts the gut microbiome.
Researchers have found that regular physical activity promotes the growth of bacteria that, in turn, play an essential role in the production of fatty acid butyrate. Butyric acid is known for its positive effects on intestinal homeostasis. It aids digestion, reduces inflammation, and helps repair the stomach lining. It is also believed that butyrate helps keep certain medical conditions at bay, such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), colon polyps, colon cancer, and others.
To get your body to grow the good bacteria, you aren’t necessarily required to run 10 miles a day nor follow a strict workout regime. Studies show that even mild forms of exercising work in favor of positive microbiota changes. To test this theory, two groups of women were observed. Scientists had one group perform a total of three hours of low-intensity physical activities, swimming and walking included, while the other performed no workouts at all. At the end of the study, the women from the group that exercised regularly had increased levels of good gut bacteria – Faecalibacterium prausnitzii, Akkermansia muciniphila, and Roseburia hominis. Women from the other group, however, did not.
How exercise affects your gut microbiome will, at the end of the day, undoubtedly depend on the level of exercise you do, along with the regularity of it. Surely, any exercise is better than no exercise. However, the more often you do it and the more strenuous activities you pick, the more diverse your microflora will be. Take professional athletes, for example. Their microbiome includes a drastically higher supply of the bacteria strains mentioned above. Thanks to that, they are less likely to struggle with gastrointestinal issues.
How can you get moving?
If you struggle with staying healthy and fit, apps can help you achieve this more effortlessly. They are meant to motivate you to work out regularly and make the whole process more enjoyable. While apps are an excellent addition to working out, they alone aren’t what will make you stick to the exercise regime. If you aren’t particularly fond of partaking in physical activities, here’s what you can do to get those steps in and thus, improve your gut health, among other things.
This might seem silly, but scheduling your workouts could help you stick to them. Mark the date and time in your calendar. If you miss it, chances are you’ll feel bad about not honoring your schedule. That, in turn, could potentially make you less likely to let it happen again.
Choose stairs rather than the elevator
Elevators make our lives easier, but they don’t make them better. Whenever you can, opt for taking the stairs instead of the elevator. That way, you’ll get your blood pumping, for which your gut health, along with your entire body, will thank you.
Not everybody is into strength training or HIIT workouts – and that’s fine. Walking is considered one of the least strenuous activities. And the truth is, for most of us, it doesn’t even seem like an exercise. But it is! Our busy schedules can prevent us from going on long daily walks. However, that doesn’t mean there’s absolutely no way to get those steps in. For instance, you can take a break from work every hour or two. Instead of sitting behind a desk, stretch your legs and walk around the house or office a bit. Furthermore, if you are someone who’s on the phone a lot, instead of being sedentary while on the line, use the opportunity to take a mini-walk, as well.
Despite our willingness to work out daily, not many of us can afford to dedicate as much time to it as we would like. After all, we’re only human, and life does tend to get in the way. Surely, how exercise affects your gut microbiome depends on its regularity and intensity. However, the one thing that matters is that exercise, no matter how mild, will improve your gut health. And isn’t that what we were trying to prove all along?
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