There’s been a lot of research and discussion about gut bacteria and their impact on health and fitness. Your gut microbiome has affects on nearly every aspect of your body, your health and even athletic performance. So wouldn’t it be great to know what kind of exercise will make your microbiome stronger?
According to Finnish researchers, we just might. A team from the University of Jyväskylä found that endurance (aerobic) exercise produced beneficial modifications to the composition of gut microbiota.
They designed a six week exercise intervention program for overweight women. The 17 subjects, all previously sedentary, completed three sessions a week using a bicycle ergometer. The intensity of training was regulated via heart rate.
No changes in diet or to other lifestyle factors were made. This allowed the team to isolate the effects of exercise alone on the women. The research was a collaboration of the Faculty of Sport and Health at the University of Jyväskylä, the University of Turku and a Spanish nonprofit healthcare and research organization called FISABIO.
While the subjects didn’t lose a significant amount of weight during the trial, other positive health effects were observed. A drop in potentially inflammation-causing microbes known as Proteobacteria was noted. At the same time, levels of microbes connected to metabolic enhancement called Akkermansia increased.
Academy of Finland research fellow Satu Pekkala from the Faculty of Sport and Health Sciences of the University of Jyväskylä noted some of the other benefits of the training program.
“We found that phospholipids and cholesterol in VLDL particles decreased in response to exercise. These changes are beneficial for cardiometabolic health because VLDL transports lipids from the liver to peripheral tissues, converts into ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol in the circulation, and thus has detrimental cardiovascular effects.”
Exercise training also decreased Vascular adhesion protein-1 activity, which can have beneficial anti-inflammatory effects especially on vasculature, though the underlying mechanisms could not be determined in this study.
More research is ongoing regarding the mediation of the health benefits of exercise from Akkermansia.
Several other studies have found that microbes of the Akkermansia genus are more abundant in those who are physically active than in those who are not. Some researchers think it may actually help prevent diabetes and obesity. As such, Akkermansia is being intensely researched.
“However, more studies are needed to prove that Akkermansia might mediate some of the health benefits of exercise,” Pekkala says.
Researchers studied not only a change in the composition of gut microbiota in their subjects, but in the functionality of their genes.
“The abundance of the functional genes did not change much, which was perhaps to be expected because the diet did not change during training,” Pekkala points out. “If the training period had been longer, greater effects probably would have been seen.”
We know that exercise can change how you look and feel. We know that endurance exercise, in particular, has great impact on the performance and longevity of your cardiorespiratory system. We may soon determine that it also plays a role in maintaining a healthy gut. How many more reasons do we need to go work out?
Keep the faith and keep after it!
Journal Reference – Eveliina Munukka, Juha P. Ahtiainen, Pere Puigbó, Sirpa Jalkanen, Katja Pahkala, Anniina Keskitalo, Urho M. Kujala, Sami Pietilä, Maija Hollmén, Laura Elo, Pentti Huovinen, Giuseppe D’Auria, Satu Pekkala. Six-Week Endurance Exercise Alters Gut Metagenome That Is not Reflected in Systemic Metabolism in Over-weight Women. Frontiers in Microbiology, 2018; 9 DOI: 10.3389/fmicb.2018.02323