Health-conscious people know exercise is a must for a healthy body. Being physically active helps the body whether one is young or old. More so for older folks as being inactive can bring on more illnesses. Consciously moving and limbering your body will reduce the risk of diseases.

The gut microbiome is not exempt from the benefits of exercise. As the whole body becomes healthier, so does the gut microbiome as a result. Our gut is home to millions of organisms crucial in optimal health. It is something like a cause-and-effect where having a healthy gut microbiome leads to a healthier body and daily exercise leads to a healthy gut, which leads to the overall health.

How Exercise Benefits the Body

Being physically active has been proven to deter chronic illnesses and reduce depression and anxiety. While sweating it out, the body releases dopamine, a hypothalamus-produced neurotransmitter that sends signals to nerve cells initiating pleasurable sensations in task completion. With this feel-good feeling, everybody would want to have increased dopamine levels, right? To be able to achieve that one must have enough sleep, less stress, have a well-balanced diet and, of course, exercise.

Anxiety, stress and depression sometimes are hard to discover. Its face can be deceitful. More than the emotional and mental burden, stress can affect physical health as it changes the gut microbiome. Anxiety and depression are the leading mental concerns in Australia. The exact statistics could be misleading as some people will not disclose or are not aware of it. Exercise may be one way to address depression and feelings of anxiety as exercise relieves stress. Workouts and simply moving about takes your mind off things that may be weighing you down. Even children when they are feeling anxious or dreading something, they complain of an upset tummy.

Even more proof of the gut and stress connection is the butterflies in our stomach associated with stage fright. That ghastly nauseous feeling when a test day is approaching and listlessness and inability to eat or hold down food at a time of great worry, scare or plain nervousness. Sometimes they would force eat thinking it will do no good to be hungry and become unhealthy. But stress can influence digestion and prevent the efficient absorption of food nutrients. Eating while agitated or nervous can cause tensed stomach and throat muscles. This might lead to choking, vomit, or an upset stomach. Nervous eating can also lead to a change in eating pattern and throw your diet out the window.

An indirect benefit exercise has on the gut microbiome is when the body is fit, the person feels more confident and relaxed, diminishing flare ups and digestive problems. Recurring stress and digestive problems can lead to chronic illnesses.

Just an hour of exercise even on the very first day can have a positive effect. Breathing heavily and more deeply will get you more oxygen. Being active, even simply walking will increase your body temperature and cause you to sweat taking toxins out along with it. A feeling of tiredness will be followed by an invigorating feeling after some rest. This is why most people exercise in the morning to get their bodies a jump start. As your body temperature rises, your skin will feel hotter and have that reddish tinge that some people may say appears to be ‘glowing’.

Diligently doing exercise will improve not just your strength and stamina but also your body shape. You will get tired less and have a more positive outlook, a happier disposition. More than the happy hormone, dopamine, this could be because of the general sense of control you have over your own body. And mind. Exercise, especially if done outdoors can clear cobwebs on the noggin and prevent or at least, slow down, degenerative conditions. It might not stop Alzheimer’s, but it can hinder cognitive decline.

Yes, despite getting tired when one exercise, physical activity at any age can enhance brain acuity and improve memory. Exercise triggers the development of new brain cells. Once the heart gets pumping, the increased heart rate brings more blood to the brain, providing a more positive environment to grow and maintain neural connections.

Usually, what is good for the brain is good for the gut microbiome and vice versa. Each part of the body has their own specific task but are still interconnected via what researchers and scientists are calling the “gut-brain axis,” so what benefits one can greatly benefit the others. Ergo, exercise, which makes for a healthy body makes for a healthy brain makes for a healthy microbiome.

Benefits of a Healthy Microbiome

Of course, exercise alone does not make the gut microbiome healthy. Why aspire to a healthy gut? A good microbiome provides the body with good digestion and immunity functions. Good immunity can be pivotal during these times when sickness extends to every corner of the globe. The immune system is heavily concentrated in the gastrointestinal tract, helping the body resist and overcome infections and illnesses. The billions of microbes and their state can change when not taken care of properly through diet, exercise, sleep and other environmental factors.

A study on the gut and exercise connection found that exercise assists in the production of butyrate. This is a fatty acid that can repair the gut lining and may reduce inflammation, thereby averting certain illnesses like inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). It also delays certain hereditary illnesses. The inherited gut is usually similar to that of the mother’s. It will vary and develop into its own unique microbiome as it encounters the environment. Prenatal care, medicine, the manner of birth, activities and diet can alter and influence the gut as well as overall health.

Top 3 Exercises for a Better, Healthier Gut

Some studies have determined that it takes about six weeks of exercise to impact the microbiome. It was also found that the weight lost through exercise stays off longer than when lost through other means. Some moderate exercise is good, but strenuous exercise might bring more harm than good.

Yoga – a low impact, low intensity exercise like yoga teaches the body and the mind. One can go as frenetic or slow as one likes, and a full body workout but not too arduous. Yoga is more than just poses and asanas. To execute properly, one must have a clear mind and breathe properly. Some poses are thought to be quite beneficial to the gut, such as the downward and upward dog. These are designed for core strength and with diligence may melt belly fat and keep it away.

Sit ups – crunches or sit ups are a little harder to do. It should not be done right after eating and ideally should be done on an empty stomach. The exercise will tighten your core, prevent digestive issues and better-defined abs.

Brisk walking – walking shouldn’t really be considered exercise unless done purposely with better health in mind. It takes your mind off many worries, especially when done outdoors, clearing one’s head and getting heart pumping.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic started, more people have been focusing on their health. So many things have sprouted promising quick results to a healthier body. Nothing beats the classic recipe of a balanced diet, enough sleep, proper exercise and avoiding harmful substances. That, and if you’re lucky, a healthy microbiome.