Exercise boosts gut health to build muscles and endurance

Regular exercise changes the composition of the gut bacteria and may play a crucial role in skeletal muscle function and endurance.

Leading exercise and nutrition expert John Hawley, director of Australian Catholic University’s Mary Mackillop Institute for Health Research, was invited to review some of the top studies published in exercise metabolism in the last 12 months.

The review, in Nature Reviews Endocrinology highlights the latest research that has uncovered biologically important links between skeletal muscle and the gut microbiome.

It reveals how regular exercise enhances gut health independent of diet and plays important roles in whole-body health.

The gut microbiome comprises the trillions of bacteria, fungi, viruses and other microbes and is now thought to impact many other organ systems and tissues in the body, including your brain and muscles, with poor bacterial diversity linked to several chronic metabolic disorders including obesity, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Now, new research points to new and even more wide-ranging benefits of regular exercise - linking higher levels of exercise to a gut bacterial diversity and improved muscle health and performance.

“These studies provide new insight into the biological crosstalk between the gut microbiota and skeletal muscle,” Professor Hawley said.

“Muscle crosstalk with other organs and tissues, including the liver, bone and brain, offers a framework for understanding how exercise transmits many of its effects on health and performance.”

Professor Hawley said while emerging research confirms the microbiome’s positive role in gut health, it is now clear exercise – regardless of the diet - plays a vital role in changing the gut microbiota.

“Exercise is a powerful intervention to change the microbiota composition to restore gut symbiosis by reversing an imbalance in bacteria,” Professor Hawley said.

He said while taking up exercise will boost gut health, research shows quitting will quickly crash it.

Improved metabolic health and exercise performance in athletes is also associated with increased microbial diversity and abundance of bacterial species, he said.

“While there is a lot more research to be done to uncover the precise mechanisms linking the intestinal microbiota, fuel stores and skeletal muscle function, it is already clear that the highway between the gut and skeletal muscle is open for two- way traffic.”

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