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Here’s More Proof That Exercise is Medicine – Even for Your Gut

A new study shows that, in addition to boosting heart health and keeping you slim, exercise may also improve the ratio of beneficial bacteria in your gut microbiome.

This is a major breakthrough because the composition of “bad” versus “good” microbes in your gut are linked to many of today’s common health problems. This includes heart disease, diabetes, obesity, depression, fatty liver and other serious medical conditions.

Exercise as Medicine

Researchers at San Francisco State University recruited 37 individuals and tested their cardiovascular fitness using a treadmill. They also assessed body composition, bacteria composition of stool samples and had all of the participants keep a seven day food log. The analysis found that the participants with the best cardiovascular fitness had a higher firmicutes to bacteroides ratio. Firmicutes, in particular, are associated with metabolic byproducts that help prevent gut bacteria from leaking into the body.

“These metabolic byproducts help strengthen the intestinal lining and help prevent leaky gut syndrome,” said Ryan Durk, who recently presented the research at the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) Annual Meeting in Minneapolis. He adds that this research reinforces the idea of “exercise as medicine.”

“When we say that phrase, we think of it as meaning that exercise will help people stay healthier and live longer. But you don’t think about your gut bacteria,” Durk said. “We now know that exercise is crucial for increasing beneficial bacteria in the gut.” This supports previous research that shows 30 to 60 minutes of exercise three times a week can favorably change the gut microbiota in previously sedentary individuals. This change can happen in as little as six weeks.

Get Active for Your Heart, Your Gut, and a Longer Life

Today the gut microbiome is emerging as a central factor in health, disease and mortality. Thus, the importance of establishing a healthy and diverse microbiome cannot be overstated. Staying fit doesn’t have to be difficult, and there are many different cardiovascular and gut-friendly types of exercise to participate in, depending on which suites you best. You can choose regular aerobic exercise activities, high-intensity-interval training, Pilates or eastern exercise regimens like yoga and tai chi.

The foods you eat can also affect the healthy balance of your gut microbiome. Fresh, plant-based foods and fermented foods encourage bacterial diversity. On the other hand meat products, sugars and processed foods are all associated with a less healthy balance of microbes.


Wang B, et al. The human microbiota in health and disease. Engineering. 2017 Feb 1;3(1):71–82.

Healthier hearts equal healthier guts. News Release. San Francisco State University. July 2018.

Allen JM, et al. Exercise Alters Gut Microbiota Composition and Function in Lean and Obese Humans. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2018 Apr;50(4):747-757.

Dana Nicholas is a freelance writer and researcher in the field of natural and alternative healing. She has over 20 years of experience working with many noted health authors and anti-aging professionals, including James Balch, M.D., Dr. Linda Page, “Amazon” John Easterling and Al Sears M.D. Dana’s goal is to keep you up-to-date on information, news and breakthroughs that can have a direct impact on your health, your quality of life… and your lifespan. “I’m absolutely convinced that America’s misguided trust in mainstream medicine – including reliance on the government to regulate our food and medicine supply – is killing us, slowly but surely,” she cautions. “By sharing what I’ve learned throughout the years I hope I can empower others to take control over their own health.”

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