Want to Improve Your Microbiome? Get Moving! - Wakunaga of America


Want to Improve Your Microbiome? Get Moving!

For years, medical experts have been telling us how critical exercise is for good health. After all, regular workouts strengthen our bones, build muscle, and help us maintain a healthy weight. Regular exercise can also lower the risk of certain diseases.

Exercise has already been shown to lower the risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease,1 but now there’s another important reason to increase the amount of physical activity you get. It turns out, exercise is linked to gut health.  For instance, increased physical activity has been shown to reduce the risk of colon cancer.2 It’s also been found to lessen irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms.3 More recently, however, studies have discovered that exercise can even change the bacterial balance in your microbiome.

How Exercise Improves Your Microbiome

Several preliminary studies report that regular exercise increases the amount of butyrate in the gut.4,5 Butyrate is a type of beneficial short-chain fatty acid (SCFA) produced by your “good” gut bacteria, and it has been linked to better digestion and nutrient absorption. Butyrate also bolsters the intestinal barrier and helps to protect against infections.

How does that translate to your lifestyle? In one of the first studies to look at how exercise influences the human microbiome, a group of scientists at the National University of Ireland, Cork, compared the microbiomes of rugby players with non-athletes. They found that the athletes had a considerably more diverse set of gut bacteria.6  Bacterial diversity is an important measure of gut health. Compared with the non-athletes, the rugby players also had higher levels of Akkermansia muciniphilaA. muciniphila is a type of beneficial bacteria that produces SCFAs. Researchers believe that it also helps to reign in inflammation and maintain gut barrier function. Robust levels of A. muciniphila have also been linked to a reduced risk of metabolic conditions like obesity and type 2 diabetes.7

More recently, a study that appeared in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition concluded that athletes not only have more diverse microbiomes, they also have more beneficial gut bacteria and higher SCFA levels.8

Do you have to be an elite athlete to experience these benefits? Nope! But your overall fitness does matter. This was seen in a Canadian study that analyzed the stool of 39 people with similar diets and BMIs, but different fitness levels. The more fit a participant was, the more beneficial bacteria they had, especially the types that produced SCFAs.9

Best Types of Exercise for Your Gut

So what are the best workouts for your microbiome? Luckily, you have lots of options. While all movement is good movement, these four types of exercise may provide the best gut benefits.

  1. Aerobic exercise. Workouts that get your heart rate up—for example, biking, brisk walking, dancing, running, or swimming—aren’t just good for your cardiovascular system. Aerobic exercise is also good for your gut. According to recent research in the journal Scientific Reports, aerobic workouts induce metabolic shifts that foster a healthier gut microbiota.10
  2. Strength training. While studies haven’t made a definitive connection between strength training and an increase in gut bacterial diversity, they have found that people who lift weights or practice resistance training have better gut health. New findings in the Journal of Applied Physiology show that people who took part in a six-week resistance training program experienced an increase in SCFAs.11 Other studies suggest that strength training can reduce gut inflammation.12
  3. Yoga. This ancient Indian practice is often recommended as a way to reign in stress and anxiety. But a clinical trial featured in BMC Complementary Medicine and Therapies reported that combining yoga with meditation and a vegan diet resulted in a greater diversity of beneficial gut bacteria and an uptick in SCFAs such as butyrate.13
  4. Diaphragmatic breathing. Breathing is something we generally take for granted. But if you practice yoga or lift weights, breathing in specific ways is often a part of your exercise regime. One effective way to breathe that benefits your gut while reducing stress is diaphragmatic breathing. Studies show that this form of slow, deep breathwork improves attention and focus, reduces stress, and improves gastrointestinal symptoms in people with constipation-predominant IBS.14,15

Take Your Microbiome to the Next Level With a Probiotic

Although getting regular exercise is an effective way to foster a healthy microbiome, you can improve your gut health even more with a daily probiotic. Studies show that probiotics help to restore the natural balance of bacteria in your gut and can foster a more diverse microbiome.16,17 But, with so many probiotic supplements on the market, how do you choose one that will actually provide the benefits you need? Look for a supplement that contains clinically studied, DNA verified strains shown to support gut health. It’s also smart to check the label to ensure your supplement doesn’t need to be refrigerated and is viable until the expiration date, not just the date it was manufactured.



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This article is for informational purposes only. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.