The microbiome is receiving more and more attention from researchers as the scientific community at large begins to understand its significant role in our health.
If the microbiome is compromised, and bad bacteria run amuck, it can lead to any number of serious health conditions.
This is why researchers are doing all they can to learn how they can positively influence the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut.
One of the most recognizable ways to increase the numbers of good bacteria in the gut is by taking probiotics.
However, taking probiotics might not be the only, or even the best way to increase the numbers of good bacteria in the gut.
New research by scientists at the Institute of Biomedicine at the University of Turku in Finland show the daily habit of endurance exercise could enhance the proliferation of good bacteria in the gut.
This study builds on top of previous studies linking exercise and improved gut health. In fact, there were two studies from last year that showed exercise alone was enough to improve gut health without any need for adjustments to diet.
This time though, the researchers wanted to find out if endurance exercise was a superior form of exercise for boosting probiotics.
In a 6-week program, the researchers followed people who participated in bicycle endurance training of three sessions per week.
The researchers enrolled 17 women who were overweight in the program. The participants had been sedentary before the study but were otherwise healthy.
The intensity of the endurance training was controlled by checking the participants’ heart rate. The women did not change anything else about their lifestyle or diet throughout the study so that the effects of exercise alone would become evident.
Using 16S rRNA sequencing, Munukka and team analyzed the composition and function of the participants’ gut microbiota.
Overall, at the end of the program, the researchers found a decrease in so-called proteobacteria — that is, gut bacteria that have the potential of causing inflammation — and an increase in beneficial bacteria called Akkermansia, which have links with a better metabolism.
Previous research has found that Akkermansia bacteria are more prevalent in people who are physically active than in people who are not. Some studies have suggested the bacteria may protect against obesity and diabetes.
“However, more studies are needed to prove that Akkermansia might mediate some of the health benefits of exercise,” says Pekkala.
In addition to that, they discovered that the protocol for endurance training and increased macrobiotic material also led to some enhanced cardiovascular biomarkers.
The participants saw their cholesterol and phospholipids fall down further into the healthy range.
This was most likely the function of the exercise, however, the decreases in inflammatory proteobacteria could have had an effect on those biomarkers, so it’s worth considering.