There are many documented benefits from engaging in regular exercise. Changes in lean muscle mass, weight loss, decreases in blood pressure and blood sugar, and improvements in power development are just a few examples. The list goes on. However, a topic that has garnered attention within recent years is the impact of exercise on the gut microbiome. Why?
The gut microbiota, which has a very large metabolic capacity, consisting of a combination of eukaryotes, bacteria, archaea, and viruses. There are over 3 million genes and over 1000 different bacterial genes that are collectively referred to as the gut microbiome. This collection of bacteria, fungi, and viruses, which can weight up to 4.4 lbs and can have important implications on overall health, the immune system, and other facets of health. Being able to optimize gut health may translate into better overall health and is a hot topic for researchers.
In a recent article by Mailing et al., (2019), authors reviewed the evidence related to the influence of exercise on the gut microbiome. They concluded that aerobic exercise, independent of diet, can alter compositional and functional capacity of the gut microbiota. These changes in gut microbial composition may have numerous health benefits and alterations in various aspects of health. Table 1 lists a few documented benefits. Although the exact details on how this actually works are not fully understood at this point, some potential physiological mechanisms thought to be responsible are ischemia, metabolic flux, gut motility, and heat stress. For more detailed information, check out the Mailing et al., 2019 review article.
|↓ colon cancer|
|↓depression and anxiety|
|↑ insulin sensitivity|
|↑ energy expenditure|
Although there are still a lot of unknowns, such as optimal exercise frequency, intensity, or mode, there is growing evidence and interest in this field. At any rate, aerobic exercise appears to have beneficial impacts on gut microbial composition which, in turn, can have positive impacts on health.
What’s the take home? Exercise can help improve your health in MANY different ways! It all starts with a decision. A decision to be in control of your health. Then it becomes all about commitment! One workout at a time.
Eddie Davila, MS, ACSM-CEP, EP-C, EIM III, CEAS
Mailing et al. Exercise and the gut microbiome: a review of the evidence, potential mechanisms, and implications for human health. Exerc. Sport Sci. Rev., Vol. 47, No. 2, pp. 75-85, 2019.