Your Gut Bacteria Love Exercise!

Give your gut a workout – but not the muscle strengthening type you’re thinking of. We’re talking about the bacteria that live inside your gut (aka: the microbiome). The composition of the bacteria in your digestive system, and losing the diversity in your microbiome, is associated with a number of diseases and syndromes, including your body weight and appetite.

New research is showing exercise increases gut microbial diversity in humans, making it another important factor in the relationship between the microbiota, your immunity and your metabolism, with diet obviously also playing a huge role. In fact, protein consumption positively correlates with microbial diversity – here are my favorite gut nourishers.  

A new study published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise suggest working out may help more varieties of good bugs to flourish. After six weeks of exercising three days a week, previously sedentary adults had increases in the gut bacteria that produce short-chain fatty acids, compounds linked to support healthy inflammatory levels and appropriate blood sugar levels. And this happened without any dietary changes. Bacterial diversity in your gut paves the way for resiliency. 

What’s more, when participants reverted back to their couch-potato ways, their microbiomes shifted back too.

If you enjoy a good cardio workout, another study found your gut likely has a better firmicutes-to- bacteroidetes ratio. What's so special about firmicutes? They're associated with the metabolic process that helps prevent bacteria in the gut from leaking into the body (aka:leaky gut syndrome). Leaky gut occurs when things like allergens and undigested food particles slip through the GI tract, entering the bloodstream and causing inflammation in the body. This 4R program has been successfully used for years for leaky gut syndrome.

Researchers speculate one way exercise may impact gut bacteria is by increasing motility – or speeding up how quickly food makes its way through your intestines. Different transit times create environments that can favor certain bugs over others. So, getting a move on may make your good gut bugs happy by helping your digestive system get a move on.

Kelly Harrington, MS, RDN

Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for Healthy Goods


Clarke SF et al. Exercise and associated dietary extremes impact on gut microbial diversity. BMJ 2014;63:1913-1920.

Durk RP et al. Gut Microbiota Composition is Related to Cardiorespiratory Fitness in Healthy Young Adults. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2018 Jul 10:1-15.

Estaki M et al. Cardiorespiratory fitness as a predictor of intestinal microbial diversity and distinct metagenomic functions. Microbiome 2016 4:42.

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