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Exercise can Boost Healthy Gut Bacteria

Update Date: Jun 10, 2014 03:09 PM EDT

People know that maintaining good physical activity levels is essential for overall health. Numerous studies have found many healthful benefits that people can reap from exercising. Now, in a new study, researchers identified another potential benefit from exercising. The team found that exercise can increase the variety of gut bacteria, which could boost the body's immune system and promote long-term health.

"Understanding the complex relationship among what we choose to eat, activity levels and gut microbiota richness is essential," Dr. Georgina Hold, of the Institute of Medical Sciences at Aberdeen University in Scotland, said. "As life expectancy continues to increase, it is important that we understand how best to maintain good health. Never has this been more important than in respect of our resident [gut] microbiota."

"The most important aspect of our study is that it draws attention to the possibility that exercise may have a beneficial effect on the microbiota colonizing the human body, and it is associated with a more diverse microbiota," added study researcher Dr. Fergus Shanahan, a gastroenterologist and professor of medicine at University College Cork in Ireland reported by FOX News.

Dr. Hold and her colleagues examined blood and stool samples taken from 40 professional rugby players and compared the variety of their gut bacteria to the gut bacteria found in 46 healthy male participants who were not athletes. Half of the men had normal body mass index (BMI), which is a measurement of obesity. The remaining half had higher-than-normal BMI. The participants all answered questioned about their diets and eating habits.

The researchers discovered that athletes had elevated levels of a specific enzyme that was tied to muscle or tissue damage. The athletes also had lower levels of inflammatory markers and more variety in their gut bacteria. One particular species that was more present in the athletes has been linked to a reduced risk of obesity and obesity-related conditions. Furthermore, the rugby players had a better metabolic profile in comparison to the non-athletes with higher-than-normal BMI.

"Our findings indicate that exercise is another important factor in the relationship between the microbiota, host immunity and host metabolism, with diet playing an important role," the study authors wrote according to Philly.

The study was published in the journal, Gut.

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