Looking after our gut involves both diet and lifestyle – including eating healthily, exercising, staying hydrated and managing stress and sleep. The relationship between exercise and gut health is proving to be more intricate than was previously understood, with researchers starting to look at it in more detail.
In what ways can exercise be good for our gut health?
There are a number of ways in which exercise may be good for our gut health. These include:
- Lowering stress: Stress has been shown to negatively impact digestive health, and can contribute significantly to digestive disorders such as IBS. Gentle exercise such as walking and yoga is known to lower stress, while more strenuous exercise such as jogging or swimming can release feel-good endorphins that also serve to reduce stress. In this way there is a positive knock-on effect on gut health. Having said this, it is possible to have too much of a good thing, and excess exercise – either too intense or too frequent – can actually increase stress within the body and lead to gut issues. As with many health-related recommendations, moderation is key.
- Boosting our bacteria: Studies are now showing that exercise can have a positive influence on the diversity and variety of our beneficial gut bacteria, which, in turn benefit our gut health. This appears to be independent of the diet. Research looking at fit individuals found they possessed a microbiome that was richer in butyrate-producing bacteria, which are especially beneficial to the health of the digestive tract.
- Influencing transit time: Exercise has been shown to reduce the transit time – that is to say the amount of time it takes for food to pass through the body – helping with constipation and bloating.
How much exercise is needed to improve gut health?
As mentioned above, there is a balance needed between getting enough exercise, but not too much. But how much is enough?
Most of the studies looking at the effect of exercise on gut health have shown that exercising for 30 minutes three times a week can help to improve levels of beneficial bacteria. Conversely, endurance or prolonged exercise was found to negatively impact gut health, leading to intestinal permeability, or a ‘leaky gut’ that then allows food particles and unwanted bacteria to cross into the blood.
What type of exercise could be good for gut health?
When deciding what types of exercise to include, consider the following:
- If you have no pre-existing gut issues, HIIT (high-intensity interval training) can help to boost overall health, including digestion and immunity.
- If you already have gut issues, try low intensity and low impact exercises – high-intensity exercise will transfer blood flow from your gut to your muscles and slow down your digestive system.
- Include some element of cool down and relaxation at the end of your exercise session to support your muscles and your gut.
- Be mindful throughout your exercise routine to identify if it is working and how your gut is feeling – can you push harder or do you need to pull back and do less?
And always eat to support your exercise and stay well-hydrated.
If you’d like to read more, other articles promoting exercise and gut health, include:
- Gut health: does exercise change your microbiome? – The Conversation
- 3 Ways Exercise Affects the Gut – Ixcela
Want to know more?
Pro-Ven Probiotics aim to provide the best support for both you and your health. If you wish to know more about gut health and exercising, please do not hesitate to call us on 01639 825107 or alternatively, learn more via our blogs or in-depth ProVen research.
ProVen Probiotics, Unit 2 Christchurch Road, Baglan Industrial Park, Port Talbot, SA12 7DJ. Tel: 01639 825107