Exercise duration, not intensity, is more important for your health

Credit: Graham Mansfield/Unsplash.

Exercise has many benefits, including strengthening muscles and bones, preventing disease, and extending lifespan.

But did you know that it can also change the composition and activity of the trillions of microbes in our guts?

The gut microbiome is a complex ecosystem of microorganisms living in our gastrointestinal tract. It plays a crucial role in maintaining overall health by aiding in digestion, nutrient absorption, and protecting against disease.

A healthy gut microbiome is diverse, with a balanced mix of beneficial bacteria, fungi, and other microbes.

Research has shown that the gut microbiome can be influenced by many factors, including diet, stress, medication, and lifestyle.

In recent years, scientists have become increasingly interested in the impact of exercise on the gut microbiome.

While it’s well known that the microbiomes of athletes are different from those who are sedentary, a recent study from the University of Calgary wanted to see how exercise shapes the gut microbiota in non-athletes.

The team assessed information on the type, time, and intensity of exercise in relation to microbiomes in a large group of middle-aged adults.

Information on body weight, diet, and hand-grip strength were also collected.

The researchers found that physical activity of moderate duration (≥150 minutes per week) increased both the richness and diversity of the gut microbiomes compared to study participants that exercised less.

This means that exercising more appears to be important in improving microbiome health, and individuals should aim to meet the Health Canada recommended 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week.

Interestingly, when exercise intensity was examined, the study showed that how long a person exercised was more important than how hard they exercised during each workout in improving microbes in the gut.

However, changes in the microbiome were not the same between different groups of individuals.

The most beneficial changes were seen in those individuals of normal weight compared to those who were overweight.

This is because being overweight exerts its own influences on the gut microbiome independently of exercise.

In this case, poor dietary habits outweigh some of the beneficial influences of exercise on the gut microbes.

In conclusion, while exercise is important for a healthy gut microbiome, it’s also important to maintain a healthy weight and dietary habits.

By exercising more and maintaining a healthy weight, individuals can achieve a healthy and optimally functioning gut microbiome, which is important for overall health.

How to improve gut health

Improving gut health can involve a variety of lifestyle changes and dietary habits. Here are some tips for improving gut health:

Eat a balanced diet: Eating a balanced diet with a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats is important for a healthy gut. It can help provide the necessary nutrients to support the growth of beneficial gut bacteria.

Include prebiotic and probiotic foods: Prebiotic foods, such as onions, garlic, bananas, and asparagus, contain fibers that feed beneficial gut bacteria. Probiotic foods, such as yogurt, kefir, kimchi, and sauerkraut, contain live bacteria that can help improve gut health.

Stay hydrated: Drinking enough water can help keep digestion moving smoothly and prevent constipation.

Reduce stress: High levels of stress can disrupt the balance of gut bacteria and cause digestive issues. Engaging in stress-reducing activities like yoga, meditation, or deep breathing exercises can help promote a healthy gut.

Get enough sleep: Sleep plays an important role in regulating many bodily functions, including digestion. Getting enough sleep can help promote a healthy gut.

Exercise regularly: Exercise can help stimulate the muscles in the digestive tract, promoting regular bowel movements and improving gut health.

Avoid processed foods: Processed foods can be low in fiber and nutrients and high in unhealthy fats and sugar, which can negatively impact gut health.

If you care about health, please read studies about how eating eggs can help reduce heart disease risk, and why beetroot juice can strongly boost muscle force in exercise.

For more information about health, please see recent studies about how espresso coffee affects your cholesterol level, and results showing vitamin D could help lower the risk of autoimmune diseases.

The study was conducted by Shrushti Shah et al and published in The FASEB Journal.

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