By now, the idea that a healthy gut is important for overall health isn’t breaking news, but new research from San Francisco State University has found that there may be an unexpected factor affecting our microbiomes: the boost cardiovascular exercise can provide our guts.
Researchers recruited 20 men and 17 women from the university’s campus and tested their cardio fitness levels on a treadmill. The participants also kept food logs for seven days and provided stool samples for the researchers to analyze specific strains of bacteria, as well as the overall bacteria composition in cells.
The researchers wanted to compare two major groups of bacteria: firmicutes and bacteroids. While both are considered important to understanding overall gut health, the researchers found a surprising correlation between one group of bacteria and a participant’s fitness health.
Results showed that those participants with the best cardiovascular fitness (those with the highest performance levels) had a higher firmicutes-to-bacteroids presence in the gut. What’s so special about firmicutes? Well, for the most part, they are associated with the metabolic process that helps prevent bacteria in the gut from leaking into the body—cue leaky gut syndrome! Leaky gut syndrome occurs when things like allergens and undigested food particles slip through the GI tract, entering the bloodstream and causing inflammation in the body.
According to Ryan Durk, a study leader on the research, these findings support the idea that exercise is almost invariably part of a healthy lifestyle. “We now know that exercise is crucial for increasing beneficial bacteria in the gut,” Durk wrote in the study. Durk also said that the findings could have major implications for how people are prescribed personalized exercise plans for their gut and overall health.
While the study sample was pretty small, with the myriad benefits of exercise, if gut health is what gets you to the gym, then there’s nothing wrong with that.