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Updated: Sep 4, 2021

Physical activity and exercise can have wide ranging health benefits. However, did you know, exercise can also help gut health and function?

More specifically, cardiorespiratory fitness has been shown to correlate with a good gut microbiome (1). In fact, one fairly recent study has suggested that exercise can enhance the number, diversity and development of beneficial healthy gut bacteria (2).

But hold your horses, before you put on that new pair of Nikes’ you ordered in lockdown and attempt the half marathon you’ve been putting off, it’s important to realise that like anything, too much of something doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to produce positive results.

This is because excessively strenuous exercise has also been shown to increase gastrointestinal symptoms, with incidents twice as high in runners (3). Although these figures are based on athletes (of whom, dehydration played a role), it’s important to practice the right level of exercise for your goals and abilities.

If you suffer from GERD (gut reflux), it’s been shown that symptoms are more likely to occur shortly after a meal (4). So, give it some time before you go straight into your heavy deadlifts or gentle jog.

So, with that taken into account, what can you do?

Walking, jogging, biking, swimming, rowing or any sport you enjoy are all good. Anything that’s going to get your heart rate up and ideally get you sweating. Doing this will give you optimal health benefits as well as the aforementioned healthy gut effects.

Above all else, I would recommend resistance training, due to the additional associated far reaching benefits it has on your body’s metabolism, physical and mental function.

However, to do this safely and to maximum effect, be sure to find a qualified professional to help you do this.

If you don’t have access to equipment (as many of us don’t during these uncertain times), then bodyweight HIIT style training is your next best thing.

There are also many bodyweight exercises and training techniques that will give you similar benefits to lifting weights (think push-ups, chin-ups or pistol squats if you’re brave) and are by no means easy.

Oh, and keep hydrated!

2. V Monda et al., Exercise Modifies the Gut Microbiota with Positive Health Effects. Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2017;2017:3831972.

3. EP de Oliveira et al., The impact of physical exercise on the gastrointestinal tract. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2009 Sep;12(5):533-8.

4. S Emerenziani et al., Gastric fullness, physical activity, and proximal extent of gastroesophageal reflux. Am J Gastroenterol. 2005 Jun;100(6):1251-6.

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