The Link Between Exercise and Gut Health

The Link Between Exercise and Gut Health

Whether it's walking or running, biking or swimming, CrossFit or Zumba, exercise is a good thing. It's no secret that regular exercise is crucial to keeping your heart healthy, but it's less well known that exercise affects gut health too. Here's how, and what you can do about it.

Exercise Affects Your Microbiota

A recent study conducted by the University of Illinois examined a diverse group of people. Their weights varied, but they all had one thing in common: none exercised regularly. After taking an initial sample of each participant's gut microbiome, the researchers put their subjects on a six week long exercise regimen. After six weeks, new samples found changes in participant's microbiomes.

That's interesting. None of the participants changed their diets, they just changed their activity levels. And their guts responded. But what's even more interesting is what happened after the participants went back to being sedentary. After six weeks, their gut microbiomes had reverted back to where they were before at the beginning of the study. This suggests that exercise impacts the microbiome, and that the activity needs to be sustained to continue to have an impact.

Exercise Improves Digestion

Exercise impacts much more than your microbiome. Moving regularly helps to, well, keep you moving regularly. Exercise reduces constipation and helps reduce bloating and gas. Regular movement also helps manage stress, which in turn reduces flare-ups for people living with IBS.

The 3 Best Exercises for Great Digestion


Taking time out of your day to stretch impacts almost every aspect of your health, including digestion. Many yoga poses are designed to stimulate the digestive tract, helping to keep you regular and reducing bloating and gas. Yoga practices that focus on mindfulness can significantly reduce stress, which helps improve digestion and overall health. 

Core Work 

A core workout isn't everyone's idea of a good time, but we promise that the burn is worth it. Strong abdominal muscles help support healthy digestive muscles, which are crucial for a well functioning digestive system. While crunches are an old standby for core work, there are dozens of different exercises that help support and strengthen this vital area. Look to local classes or YouTube for inspiration and guidance. 

Brisk Walking

There's nothing better than a brisk walk. It doesn't require any special equipment and for many people it's as easy as stepping out the front door. The Italians have long had a tradition of taking a short walk after a meal, and there's a good reason why. It turns out that a post-meal stroll can help reduce blood sugar spikes and make you feel more full. 

Take it Slow

Moderate exercise like walking after a meal can help your digestion. But going too hard can have the opposite effect. A high intensity workout draws blood away from your digestive system, slowing digestion down and reversing the positive effects of moderate exercise. Stick to a brisk walk and your gut will thank you.

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