We’ve always known that regular exercise is good for you, but a new study has cast light on exactly how. Exercise changes gut bacteria in just six weeks, new research reveals.
Previously inactive people who exercise for at least 30 minutes a day three times a week experience increased levels of gut bacteria that produce butyrate.
Butyrate is an anti-inflammatory acid that has been linked to protection against bowel cancer, as well as weight loss and stronger immunity.
The same results were previously found in mice, which became less likely to develop the inflammatory bowel disease ulcerative colitis if they were active.
Lead author Professor Jeffrey Woods from the University of Illinois, said: ‘These are the first studies to show that exercise can have an effect on your gut independent of diet or other factors.’
Yet, the catch is exercise’s positive impact on gut bacteria is reversed if people revert to being inactive.
The researchers analyzed 18 lean and 11 obese women.
All of the study’s participants were previously sedentary before undergoing six weeks of endurance-based activity for three days a week that progressed from 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day to one hour of vigorous activity.
The participants then went back to a sedentary lifestyle for six weeks.
Their diets were consistent throughout the study.
Fecal samples were collected before and after the participants became active.
Exercise linked to cancer prevention and stronger immunity
Results reveal exercise changes gut bacteria, which is largely reversed if people revert to being inactive.
In particular, species that produce an anti-inflammatory acid known as butyrate increase, which has previously been linked to bowel-cancer protection, weight loss and stronger immunity.
For unclear reasons, the findings are greater in lean people than those who are obese.
One thing is clear, though: Rather than paying a fortune for snake oil pills, the best way to keep healthy is exercise and a decent, natural diet.