Exercise can have great effects on the trillions of microbes that live in our gut. Together the community of gut microbiome can weigh up to 2 kilograms (4.4 pounds).
Lucy Mailing, a nutritional scientist , performed a research on how exercise affects the gut microbiome at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. The research showed that the microbes in active people made more short-chain fatty acids (SCFs) that are good for health. One of these was butyrate (BYOO-turayt). Studies have shown it can protect against certain cancers, fight inflammation and regulate genes that promote health. It may even enhance sleep. Our gut bacteria make such SCFAs from the fiber found in nuts, grains and many vegetables.
Riley Hughes studies nutritional biology at the University of California, Davis. She summarised research on exercise, diet and the microbiome in the January 2020 Frontiers in Nutrition. She says, “Multiple studies have found that exercise increases butyrate and other beneficial SCFAs. Athletes have more SCFAs in their gut than non-athletes.
Studies of how our gut and brain communicate are relatively new. But scientists have already discovered that childhood and adolescence are unique windows for recruiting these microbes. Regular exercise and a good diet during these early life stages create a healthy microbiome.
The final take home message remains the same : Exercise is good for you.