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A new study from the University of Calgary shows that exercise can improve gut health, strengthen muscles and bones, and reduce the risk of inflammation and chronic disease. The study found that just 30 minutes of exercise per day can keep the digestive tract healthy, and the gut flora of athletes demonstrates the impact of physical fitness on the microbiome. The study findings were published in The FASEB Journal.

Moderate-duration exercise improves gut health

According to Shah, a Kinesiology Ph.D. student focusing on Nutrition, Metabolism, and Genetics, the microbiomes of athletes may be different due to their lean physiques and strict diet and training regimens. However, to investigate the connection between exercise and gut bacteria in non-athletes, the study examined a large group of middle-aged adults, considering factors such as exercise type, duration, intensity, body weight, diet, and hand grip strength.

Jane Shearer, a professor at the Faculty of Kinesiology and the Cumming School of Medicine said that the study yielded positive results as it found that moderate-duration physical activity of at least 150 minutes per week improved both the richness and diversity of the gut microbiomes compared to those who exercised less. The findings suggest that more exercise is crucial in promoting microbiome health, and individuals should strive to meet the recommended 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week by Health Canada.

Exercise duration is more important than intensity

The study found that exercise duration is more important than intensity in improving the presence of beneficial gut bacteria, although the exact reason for this is unclear. The study also found that changes in the gut microbiome varied based on weight, with normal-weight individuals experiencing better results than overweight individuals.

Post-doctoral associate in Kinesiology and study investigator Dr. Chunlong Mu explains that being overweight can negatively affect the gut microbiome despite the positive influence of exercise, particularly if accompanied by poor dietary habits. However, according to study findings exercising can improve gut health, even if it is just for 30 minutes per week.