The surprising link between movement and your microbiome

Written by Jennifer Smallridge.

 

Given that you’re reading this PERKii blog, it’s clear that you care for (or at least know about) the trillions of microbes in your gut which all work together to keep you healthy and well.

Your microbe gut gang is shaped by many factors, some of which started way back when you were born, and others to do with what you consume every day. But did you know that exercise can influence those little guys too?

 

Physical activity as protection

Just six weeks of exercise training (as simple meeting the physical activity guidelines – moderate-intensity exercise for at least 150 minutes per week) has been shown to increase something special in the gut known as SCFA: short-chain fatty acids. These amazing little helpers can work together to protect the gut barrier and contribute to your immune system. With cold and flu season fast approaching, think of regular exercise as your extra insurance against falling sick!

 

Dare to diversify 

Studies have also shown that elite sportspeople have greater diversity in their gut, AKA – their microbiome is a thriving metropolis. Given that over 80% of our immune system lives there, 'good guts' need to be well populated with lots of different bacteria buddies for resilience and wellbeing.

On the flipside, low microbiome diversity is associated with chronic diseases, including but not limited to: obesity, colorectal cancer, type 2 diabetes and chronic fatigue syndrome. Yet another great reason to get moving!

 

What if I am already inflamed?

Inflammatory bowel disease (including Chrohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis) show up with a host of changes in the microbiome, along with painful and often debilitating symptoms. The good news is that participating in regular physical activity is associated with a 22% risk reduction of a flare-up in those with ulcerative colitis, and exercising for 10 weeks or more is linked with overall increased quality of life – nice!

 

The microbiome and the mind

With the gut often referred to as the ‘second brain’, it’s little wonder that the microbiome and mood are closely related. One of the friendly bacteria in our gut can even make its own serotonin, the feel-good chemical which is found to be at low levels in depression. Exercise can help to stock up on serotonin once more through increasing the amounts of the bacteria which creates it. Think of movement like accessing a medicine cabinet in your brain! 

Another fantastic fitness finding is that exercise can increase ‘butyrate-producing microbes’ - and when they go up, anxiety behaviour goes down, whilst also contributing to new pathways in the brain (neuroplasticity).

We all know that it just feels good to exercise regularly, so next time you’re on the couch, think of those trillions of bacteria in your tummy who would all love for you to get up and move!

 

Sources:

 

Mailing, L.J., Allen, J.M., Buford, T.W., Fields, C.J. and Woods, J.A., 2019. Exercise and the gut microbiome: a review of the evidence, potential mechanisms, and implications for human health. Exercise and sport sciences reviews47(2), pp.75-85.

 

Turnbaugh, P.J. and Gordon, J.I., 2009. The core gut microbiome, energy balance and obesity. The Journal of physiology587(17), pp.4153-4158.

 

Cryan, J.F. and O’mahony, S.M., 2011. The microbiome‐gut‐brain axis: from bowel to behavior. Neurogastroenterology & Motility23(3), pp.187-192.

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