Exercise Shown to Increase Healthy Bacteria Population in Gut

A study recently published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism shows evidence that physical activity may be linked to proliferation of a healthy gastrointestinal microbiome. This research was the first project to explore the relationship between gut bacteria and cardiovascular fitness.

The study was conducted by Ryan Durk, of the Department of Kinesiology at the San Francisco State University in California, and his colleagues. Using a group of 20 men and 18 women who had not taken antibiotics in the last 6 months, Durk and his colleagues evaluated each subject’s cardiovascular fitness with a treadmill test. Specifically, the researchers were measuring VO2-max, or the maximum amount of oxygen utilized during intense exercise. To measure microbiome composition, the team extracted DNA from stool samples and used Quantitative Polymerase Chain Reaction to quantify genes found in Firmicutes and Bacteroidetes. The Firmicutes-to-Bacteroidetes ratio is commonly used to measure gut health, with imbalances in this ratio being linked to obesity and irritable bowel syndrome.

“We now know that exercise is crucial for increasing beneficial bacteria in the gut.” Ryan Durk

The researchers found that those with higher VO2-max also had a higher Firmicutes-to-Bacteroidetes ratio. The team states that high numbers of Firmicutes is associated with production of metabolites that prevent harmful bacteria from spreading throughout the body. Durk claims that these metabolites “help strengthen the intestinal lining and help prevent leaky gut syndrome.”

Durk and his colleagues hope that future research will confirm their findings, and see these results translating into exercise programs being used to improve gastrointestinal bacterial composition.

Sources: International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, Medical News Today