We're all familiar with how important exercise is for our overall health, but did you know that physical exertion can also help maintain gut health? It works both ways, too. While workouts can help enhance gut function, good gut health also makes it easier to get moving. Be sure to keep reading because today, we're tackling everything there is to know about exercise and gut health.
How Can Exercise Improve the Gut Microbiome?
The gut microbiome refers to the population of beneficial bacteria and other microorganisms living within the gastrointestinal tract. These microorganisms play essential roles in digestion, contributing up to 90% of our immune system, helping regulate metabolism, and even maintaining the nervous system as a whole. Even more interesting, bacteria like Faecalibacterium and Lachnospiraceae actually appear to increase after exercise. These microorganisms are responsible for producing short-chain fatty acids in response to the digestion of dietary fiber.
Exercise can improve gut health because it contributes to the diversity of the body’s microbial community. Studies have shown that exercise can help boost the production of butyrate. This fatty acid helps repair the gut lining as well as reduce inflammation. This could potentially help prevent diseases like inflammatory bowel disease/irritable bowel syndrome or insulin resistance.
Exercise reduces inflammation throughout the entire body, including the GI tract. Studies have shown that cardiovascular exercise can reduce leaky gut syndrome. Exercise may even counteract some of the negative effects of a high-fat diet, but not all.
How to Exercise for Gut Health
There are a handful of tried and true exercises that you can follow if you want to help keep the bacterial species and microbial environment in your gut happy. One study in women found that with at least three hours of light exercise per week, subjects had increased their levels of beneficial gut bacteria compared to sedentary subjects.
If you want to help your gut along, here are some exercises you can try:
Stick to a Low-Intensity and Low-Impact Regime
High-intensity exercise training increases inflammation in the gut. When you overdo it, your muscles force blood away from the gut and towards the working muscles. This will negatively affect the gut microbiota, leading to an inflammatory response and reduced overall microbial diversity.
While there isn't a specific amount of exercise that's perfect for everyone, experts advise an average of 30 minutes of aerobic exercise five days a week and two or three days of resistance training for peak human health. Exact intensities and frequencies vary based on body composition and age, but this is a good rule of thumb to begin with.
Focus on Strength Training
Strength training is an excellent way to improve the health of your gut microbes, and it leads to improved metabolic health. It's been shown to reduce inflammation in the gut and prevent leaky gut syndrome. It also enhances your ability to handle the stress of exercise, which will help you to work out more often.
However, too much strength training can lead to exercise-induced changes and fatigue, so it's essential to make sure you're doing it right. For your gut microbiota to receive the most significant benefit from strength training, it must be done slowly and correctly over a long period.
What does slow and correct mean?
When strength training, it’s important to make sure that you're not lifting heavier than your body can handle. This can cause serious damage to your muscles and even permanent injury if you go with something too heavy.
Take the slow and steady approach to building strength; there’s nothing wrong with using 1-lb dumbbells to begin your fitness journey.
The Best Exercises for Gut Health
The best exercises to help your gut health include the following:
Walking is by far the easiest exercise you can do. It's a low-impact, moderate exercise that burns calories, boosts the immune system, and helps you maintain muscle mass. As a bonus, it can also help improve gut health. A study in healthy older women found that aerobic exercise coupled with brisk walking can help increase intestinal bacteroides, a type of healthy gut bacteria.
Studies have found yoga to be an effective form of exercise for adults who suffer from IBS. By relaxing the muscles, you increase blood flow to your gut, increasing nourishment and boosting activity in the digestive tract.
Cycling is another excellent exercise for gut health and the digestive system. It helps burn fat, improves circulation, helps achieve a lean body mass index (BMI) and improved metabolic health, and strengthens the muscles. Studies show that a consistent cycling routine can boost the presence of beneficial microbe Akkermansia while decreasing harmful bacteria such as Proteobacteria.
Crunches can strengthen your core and result in a nice six-pack, but is also good for your gut health. Studies show that crunches can help reduce your overall body fat, which is a risk factor for insulin resistance and diabetes. The best part is that crunches don't take up too much time, but they can make a big difference in your gut health.
Breathing exercises are a great way to improve your digestive health. Studies have shown that these exercises can increase good bacteria in the gut, reduce the risk of inflammatory diseases, and even improve mood.
If you want to improve your metabolic health, it's time to start exercising more. But remember that the most crucial part of exercise isn't quantity; it’s quality. Make sure to begin your workouts at a low-impact and slow pace. Don’t push yourself too hard or do more than your body can handle. Be patient; your gains will come soon enough.
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Does Exercise Improve Gut Health?
Exercise is a great way to help improve the health of your gut bacteria. This includes reducing inflammation and preventing leaky gut syndrome. Still, you have to be careful about how much you're exercising. High-intensity workouts may actually damage your gut microbiome if done incorrectly.
What Exercise is Best for Gut Health?
Everyone responds differently to exercise. It's important to find an exercise routine that works for you. Examples of great exercises for metabolic function and health include brisk walking, biking, weight lifting, and even yoga.
Does Exercise Improve the Gut Microbiome?
Exercise has been shown to improve your gut microbiome. In athletes, for example, regular exercise leads to an increase in the number of good bacteria like Faecalibacterium prausnitzii and Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron in the large intestine.