Exercise for Gut Health: How Does Exercise Affect the Gut Microbiome?

Key Points:

  • Your gut microbiome is made of billions of microorganisms, which can be drastically affected (positively or negatively) by how often you exercise.

  • You can optimize your exercise routine by maintaining consistency, prioritizing good nutrition, incorporating outdoor sports, and taking small incremental steps to get the best gut health benefits.

  • Low-intensity exercises, yoga, and core fitness can help to get things moving in your digestive tract while keeping your stress levels down.

There are a lot of things that might affect your overall gut health. You might be aware of the most common ones, like diet, medication, and sleep quality. But did you know one of the biggest determining factors of a healthy microbiome might actually be how you exercise? 

Yep, your morning trip to the gym is actively influencing your gut flora and could even impact parts of your immune system, digestive health, and how you burn fat. 

Unlock the benefits of your microbiome and empower your body to perform at its best — both inside and outside of the gym.

Here’s how to determine if your preferred exercise is affecting your gut microbiome and what exercise routines are best for your gut health.

Table of Contents:

How Does Exercise Improve Gut Health?

Someone who exercises regularly can expect to benefit from a myriad of health benefits. These may include: 

  • Reduced risk of heart attack or stroke
  • Insulin regulation
  • Improved sleep quality
  • Mood stabilization
  • Stronger muscles and bones
  • Improved flexibility
  • Cellular rejuvenation
  • Better energy throughout the day

Want to know what all of these things have in common? Gut health.

To date, we have only scratched the surface of exactly what the microbiome is capable of. Regulating the central nervous system, creating essential chemicals for brain function (like serotonin and dopamine), and controlling the immune system are only a few functions accomplished by the gut. 

One important thing to know about the gut is that the diversity of your gut microbes is just as important as how many there are. Different microbes perform different essential functions. (For example, the bacteria Akkermansia muciniphila promotes liver health). So having a variety of healthy gut friends is one of the best ways to determine your present and future health.

How Will Exercise Support a Healthy Gut Microbiome?

A recent study took sedentary women and implemented a regular exercise routine for them. During the study, their diet and environment were not changed — only the amount of time they spent at the gym. Once the study was complete, scientists discovered that these women had significant increases in the diversity of their gut flora. 

Regular exercise is one way to energize your microbiome. It may also eliminate inflammatory species of bacteria and strengthen the gut lining.

How to Optimize Your Exercise Routine for the Gut Microbiome

Prioritize Outdoor Exercise

There are so many benefits to exercising outside. Sunshine will help energize your cells, fresh air is great for your mental health, and soil actually contains probiotics that can enter your microbiome just by doing your regular yoga routine outside in the grass. . So when you spend time outside, you might actively add probiotic species to your gut. 

You don’t have to do every workout outdoors. But hiking or walking outside just once or twice a week is a great way to get all the gut health benefits of exercise — with the added benefits of nature.

Choose Low-Intensity Exercises

Your brain can’t tell the difference between running for fun and running for survival. It just knows it's stressed. High-intensity workouts can put your body in a state of fight or flight

They don’t need to be avoided entirely, but if you have a consistent workout schedule, it’s probably beneficial to stagger high-intensity workouts (HIIT, running, stair climbers, intense hiking) with lower-intensity exercises (yoga, pilates, walking, etc.). 

Low-intensity workouts remind your brain and body that you’re in a healthy environment — giving your gut flora a safe place to grow, adapt, and thrive.

Practice Consistency

Consistency is key when it comes to working out. Exercising three or four times a month isn’t going to alter your microbiome at all. It’s important to plan out a schedule and stick to it. When planning your workouts, be realistic. Choose a consistent schedule you know you can stick with and work your way up to 3-4 times per week for real gut benefits.

Prioritize Small Steps

An all-or-nothing mentality isn’t good for your exercise routine or your gut. When you approach exercise with small steps, you get your body familiar with a new routine. Small and consistent actions are much more likely to make progress over time, whereas big inconsistent actions are more likely to be scrapped when they become difficult. 

Optimize Your Nutrition

When your gut microbiome is diversifying, it needs fuel. Your gut flora thrives off of greens and fibrous foods. By eating a variety of fruits, veggies, grains, and healthy fats, you can speed up the process of optimizing your gut health through exercise.

Best Exercises for Gut Health 

Low-Intensity Cardio

Does cardio help with digestion? Most of the time, yes! Low-intensity cardio workouts are great for beginner exercise enthusiasts because they typically cut down on recovery time and muscle soreness. They’re a great way to manage stress levels and they get your gut moving if you’re feeling bloated and gassy.

Yoga

If you struggle with intestinal permeability (aka, leaky gut) and often have symptoms like cramping, bloating, and gas, yoga is a great option to help release tension in your gut. 

Find specific yoga exercises that target the core, and work to detox the body. The deep breathing practices included in yoga will help to calm your anxiety and get things moving in your digestive tract.

Can Playing Sports Improve Gut Health?

Since sports incorporate almost all of our exercise optimizing tips (consistency, nutrition, outdoor training, etc.) there are few sports that don’t improve your gut health. 

Sports like swimming, golf, and tennis that incorporate low-intensity work may be a better choice if your gut is particularly sensitive to stress. But any sport that you enjoy and do consistently is a great choice for your gut health.

How Does Exercise Affect Your Cells? 

Regular workouts can actually slow down cellular aging — keeping you looking and feeling younger for longer. Exercise has also been linked to better white blood cell performance. It gets your white blood cells moving — allowing them to predict and target diseases earlier than in patients who don’t exercise.

Does a Healthier Gut Boost Fitness Levels?

Yes! With an optimized gut, you can expect to have stable and regulated energy patterns, which ultimately boost your exercise performance over time. Uncomfortable symptoms like bloating and gas that might hinder your current fitness levels can be put in remission — increasing your comfort and tolerance levels for more high-intensity exercises.

Do You Feel Anxious About Exercising?

If you’ve suffered from a chronic illness, or you experience regular symptoms of gut dysbiosis, you may feel anxious about making exercise a part of your everyday routine. It’s true — the first few workouts might feel uncomfortable. But the science backs it up — exercise will help you feel better in the long run.

Commit to building your workout routine slowly. Choose activities you love — and some you can do with friends. BodyBio is committed to helping you along the way. Our Butyrate and Gut+ supplement works with your body to strengthen the gut lining and support a healthy microbiome while reducing inflammation throughout the body. This can lessen symptoms of gut dysbiosis and increase your energy levels — making exercise more approachable and more fun.

Shop Butyrate and Gut+ today! 

References

Zhou K. (2017). Strategies to promote abundance of Akkermansia muciniphila, an emerging probiotics in the gut, evidence from dietary intervention studies. Journal of functional foods, 33, 194–201. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jff.2017.03.045


Monda, V., Villano, I., Messina, A., Valenzano, A., Esposito, T., Moscatelli, F., Viggiano, A., Cibelli, G., Chieffi, S., Monda, M., & Messina, G. (2017). Exercise Modifies the Gut Microbiota with Positive Health Effects. Oxidative medicine and cellular longevity, 2017, 3831972. https://doi.org/10.1155/2017/3831972


Carapeto, P. V., & Aguayo-Mazzucato, C. (2021). Effects of exercise on cellular and tissue aging. Aging, 13(10), 14522–14543. https://doi.org/10.18632/aging.203051


Terry, N., & Margolis, K. G. (2017). Serotonergic Mechanisms Regulating the GI Tract: Experimental Evidence and Therapeutic Relevance. Handbook of experimental pharmacology, 239, 319–342. https://doi.org/10.1007/164_2016_103


Canani, R. B., Costanzo, M. D., Leone, L., Pedata, M., Meli, R., & Calignano, A. (2011). Potential beneficial effects of butyrate in intestinal and extraintestinal diseases. World journal of gastroenterology, 17(12), 1519–1528. https://doi.org/10.3748/wjg.v17.i12.1519

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