Exercising for 30 minutes every day improves ‘richness, diversity’ of gut microbiome

CALGARY — Exercise is a mainstay approach for stronger muscles and bones, which helps prevents the risk of inflammation and chronic disease. Now, new research from the University of Calgary finds that exercise also improves gut health! It turns out that working out just 30 minutes per day keeps our digestive tracts happy and healthy.

Researchers say the gut flora of athletes demonstrate just how powerful physical fitness can impact microbiome.

“Athletes are often lean and follow strict diet and training schedules – these factors alone can explain the different microbiomes of athletes,” says Shah, a Kinesiology PhD student specializing in Nutrition, Metabolism and Genetics, in a media release.

But to explore the relationship between exercise and gut bacteria in people who aren’t athletes, the study looked at exercise type, time, and intensity in a large cohort of typical middle-aged adults. Body weight, diet, and hand grip strength were also utilized.

Gut health: Intestines sketch with gut bacteria
Athletes may have more diverse, healthier microbiome from their dieting and exercise regimens. (© T. L. Furrer – stock.adobe.com)

“Encouragingly, the study found that physical activity of moderate duration (≥150 minutes per week) increased both the richness and diversity of the gut microbiomes compared to study participants that exercised less,” says Jane Shearer, PhD, a professor in the Faculty of Kinesiology and the Cumming School Medicine. “Given this, more exercise appears to be important in improving microbiome health and individuals should aim to meet the Health Canada recommended 150 min of moderate-intensity physical activity per week.”

Specifically with exercise intensity, the study found that duration mattered more for improving the presence of good gut bacteria than intensity. The exact reasoning for this remains unclear, so it’s something for the team to look into further. Moreover, results show that changes in the gut microbiome weren’t the same across the board. People with a normal weight saw better results compared to people who were overweight.

“Being overweight exerts its own influences on the gut microbiome independently of exercise. In this case, poor dietary habits outweigh some of the beneficial influences of exercise on the gut microbes,” explains study investigator Dr. Chunlong Mu, PhD, a postdoctoral associate in Kinesiology.

It’s clear that exercise is incredibly important for gut health, but the findings also emphasize the importance of making sure that obtaining or maintaining a healthy weight is a priority as well. There’s no need to be an athlete who works out tons of hours a week to achieve this, just half an hour a day for five days could do the job!

The findings are published in the The FASEB Journal.

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About the Author

Shyla Cadogan, RD

Shyla Cadogan is a DMV-Based acute care Registered Dietitian. She holds specialized interests in integrative nutrition and communicating nutrition concepts in a nuanced, approachable way.

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