Sweaty, heart-healthy exercise is also good for your gut [Photo: Bigstock]

Get fit for a healthy gut

20 February, 2019

Natural Health News — It’s not a new idea that a healthy gut is important for overall health. But what is new is the evidence that cardiovascular exercise can give a natural boost to gut health.

In a small study in the journal Experimental Physiology, researchers from Indiana University Bloomington and the University of Alabama at Birmingham, investigated the link cardiorespiratory fitness – the efficiency with which we transport oxygen to our tissues – and the diversity of bacteria in the gut.

They recruited 37 participants who had been successfully treated for non-metastatic breast cancer. This particular group was chosen because cancer treatment typically has a negative impact on metabolic health, including cardiorespiratory fitness.

The participants were asked to perform a series of graded exercises so that the researchers could assess their peak cardiorespiratory fitness, as well as total energy expenditure. The investigators also collected fecal samples from the volunteers and used them to analyse the participants’ gut microbiota.

What they found was that participants with higher cardiorespiratory fitness also had more diverse bacterial populations in the gut, compared with peers who had low cardiorespiratory fitness.

In addition, the results suggested that cardiorespiratory fitness was linked with about a quarter of the variance in bacterial species diversity and that this effect was independent of that produced by an individual’s body fat percentage.

Building a picture of health

The findings build previous research. In 2018 researchers from San Francisco State University reported on a study of 20 men and 17 women recruited from the university’s campus and tested their cardio fitness levels on a treadmill and then compared this to gut health. Reporting in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism indicated cardiorespiratory fitness was a far greater predictor of gut microbiota diversity than either body fat percentage or general physical activity.

In particular, those participants with the best cardiovascular fitness were found to have a higher ration of firmicutes-to-bacteroids in the gut. Firmicutes are associated with the metabolic process that help strengthen the intestinal lining and help prevent leaky gut syndrome.

This and other small studies which we have reported on are helping to build a picture of how connected our body systems are and provide information that can lead to more holistic approaches to managing health and wellbeing.