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Exercise can beneficially alter the composition of your gut microbiome

By cwan | January 24th, 2018

Two new studies led by researchers at the University of Illinois have delivered the first clear evidence that the composition of gut bacteria can be changed by exercise alone. Designed to isolate the effects of exercise from other factors that could influence gut bacteria, these dual studies build on an increasing body of evidence affirming the role of exercise in determining the makeup of a person’s gut microbiome.

The first study, focusing on a mouse model, took fecal samples from sedentary mice and exercised mice then transplanted that material into germ-free sedentary mice to analyze the effects of the different gut flora.

The results were significant, with the mice that received the exercised gut bacteria displaying an enhanced microbial diversity and a higher volume of butyrate-producing microbes. Butyrate is a short-chain fatty acid (STFA) known to be vital to colon health, energy production and thought to protect against colon cancer.

The researchers found that the animals that received the exercised microbiota had an attenuated response to a colitis-inducing chemical: there was a reduction in inflammation and an increase in the regenerative molecules that promote a faster recovery.

The second study looked at humans and involved 18 lean and 14 sedentary obese subjects. All the subjects maintained their normal diets but were put on an exercise program consisting of up to an hour of cardiovascular activities, three times a week for six weeks. Each participant’s microbiome was sampled before and after the program.

The results of this study were fascinating with notable increases in fecal concentrations for STFAs seen in the lean subjects, but only modest increases seen in the obese subjects. Six weeks after the program was completed, these positive increases had declined following the participants return to a sedentary lifestyle.

These two studies build on earlier work suggesting a strong correlation between exercise and diversity of healthy gut bacteria. This compelling new discovery, revealing that the effects of exercise could be dependent on obesity status, offers affirms the benefits of regular exercise.

Thanks for reading.

Dr. Connie Wan

Journal References:

  1. J. M. Allen, L. J. Mailing, J. Cohrs, C. Salmonson, J. D. Fryer, V. Nehra, V. L. Hale, P. Kashyap, B. A. White & J. A. WoodsExercise training-induced modification of the gut microbiota persists after microbiota colonization and attenuates the response to chemically-induced colitis in gnotobiotic mice, Gut MicrobesVol. 0, Iss. 0, 2017
  2. Allen JM, Mailing LJ, Niemiro GM, Moore R, Cook MD, White BA, Holscher HD, Woods JA, Exercise Alters Gut Microbiota Composition and Function in Lean and Obese Humans, Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2017 Nov 20. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000001495.