Boost Your Gut Health with Exercise: Understanding the Science Behind the Gut Microbiome and Physical Activity


By: Dr. Shaina Cahill, Ph.D. (Director Medical Communications & Affairs)

Are you looking for a natural way to improve your gut health and reduce your risk of disease? While we all know that physical activity can help us stay healthy and reduce the risk of many chronic diseases, did you know that physical activity can also benefit your gut health? Recent research has shown that physical activity can have a positive impact on the composition and diversity of the gut microbiome, which can lead to improved health outcomes 1–6

So, how does physical activity improve gut health? Let’s take a closer look at the science.

  1. Increased microbial diversity.

Physical activity has been shown to increase the diversity of microorganisms in the gut, which is a good thing! 3,4,6–11 A diverse gut microbiome is associated with better health outcomes, while a less diverse microbiome has been linked to several diseases. 12–16

Studies have shown that people who exercised regularly had a more diverse gut microbiome than those who were sedentary1,3,4,7,11,17Clark et al. and others have also highlighted the importance of diet, reporting that protein intake was related to increased microbial diversity, suggesting that exercise and diet both play a significant role in gut bacterial diversity 2–4,7(You can learn more about the role of diet in gut health here.)

  1. Reduced inflammation

Physical activity has anti-inflammatory effects throughout the body, and the gut is no exception 2,18,18–20.  Several studies have shown that exercise can reduce inflammation in the gut and improve gut health 2–4,17,18,21. For example, studies have found that exercise reduces levels of inflammatory markers in the gut of people with inflammatory bowel disease and improves IBD-related symptoms 22–25.

  1. Increased production of short-chain fatty acids

Physical activity can also increase the production of short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) in the gut 7,8,10,17,26,27. SCFAs play a critical role in gut health, helping to maintain the integrity of the gut, reduce inflammation, and regulate metabolism 2,20,28–31.

So, what type of exercise has the biggest impact on the gut microbiome?

While any type of physical activity will have a positive impact on health and the gut microbiome, some types of exercise may be more effective than others. Currently, more research is needed in this area, but studies do suggest that aerobic exercise at moderate intensity can improve gut health 2,5,17,27. The most important thing is to incorporate physical activity into your daily life, as a sedentary lifestyle is associated with a higher incidence of chronic disease 2,27,32–34.

Tips for Incorporating Physical Activity into Your Daily Routine:

If you’re looking to improve your gut health through physical activity, here are some tips for incorporating more movement into your daily routine:

  1. Start small: Even small amounts of physical activity, like taking a short walk after dinner or doing a few minutes of stretching in the morning, can make a difference.
  2. Find activities you enjoy: The key to sticking with a physical activity routine is to find activities you enjoy.
  3. Make it social: Exercising with friends or family members can make physical activity more enjoyable and help you stay motivated.
  4. Mix it up: To get the most benefit for your gut health, it’s a good idea to try a variety of activities, including cardio, strength training, and flexibility exercises.
  5. Find ways to be active throughout the day: You don’t have to set aside a specific time for exercise to improve your gut health. Finding ways to be active throughout the day, like taking the stairs instead of the elevator or parking further away, can add up to significant health benefits.

Overall, we know that physical activity has a positive impact on the gut microbiome, which in turn can improve our overall health and reduce the risk of disease 3,8,11,21,27. Actually, it is thought that the changes in the gut microbiome from exercise, such as increased diversity and reduced inflammation, can have numerous neurological health benefits, including improved mental health and cognitive functions 2,3,8,11,27. By understanding the science behind how physical activity improves gut health, we can take steps to incorporate more exercise into our daily lives and make dietary choices that support a healthy gut microbiome.

At Novel Biome, we believe in the importance of the gut microbiome for overall health and the possibilities of fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) to restore gut health and treat disease. Novel Biome focuses on FMT product manufacturing and supplying high-quality products, relying on our world-class donors to allow us to make a significant difference in the lives of many individuals, take our eligibility quiz to see if you can be a stool donor.”

References: 1. Bressa, C. et al. 2017, 2. Cataldi, S. et al. 2022, 3. Chen, J. et al. 2018, 4. Clarke, S. F. et al. 2014, 5. Koblinsky, N. D. et al. 2023, 6. Mailing, L. J. et al. 2019, 7. Barton, W. et al. 2017, 8. Boytar, A. N. et al. 2022,9. Campbell, S. C. & Wisniewski, P. J. 2017, 10. Estaki, M. et al. 2016,  11. Fart, F. et al. 2020,  12. Bresalier, R. S. & Chapkin, R. S. 2020, 13. Ser, H.-L. et al. 2021, 14. Thaiss, C. A. et al. 2016, 15. Thursby, E. & Juge, N. 2017, 16. Yang, I. et al. 2016, 17. Clauss, M. et al. 2021, 18. Scheffer, D. D. L. & Latini. A. 2020, 19. Sohail, M. U. et al. 2019, 20. Sun, Y. et al. 2020, 21. Wegierska, A. E. et al. 2022, 22. Bilski, J. et al. 2014, 23. Engels, M. et al 2017, 24. Lamers, C. R. et al. 2021, 25. Ordille, A. J. & Phadtare, S. 2022, 26. Allen, J. M. et al. 2018, 27. Zhong, F. et al. 2022, 28. Dong, T. S. & Gupta, A. 2019, 29. Li, H., Ni, J. & Qing, H. 2021, 30. Moles, L. & Otaegui, D. 2020, 31. Ramos, S. & Martín, M. Á. 2021, 32. Booth, F. W. et al. 2008, 33. González, K. et al. 2017, 34. Zhao, R. et al. 2020

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