Exercise may do more than slim your waistline and boost heart health. It might also make what's inside your gut healthier, according to a new study by San Francisco State University.
In this first-of-its-kind study, researchers tested the relationship between gut health and cardiovascular fitness.
The research team recruited 20 men and 17 women, mostly from the SF State campus, and tested their cardiovascular fitness on a treadmill. They also assessed their body composition. Participants kept food logs for seven days and provided stool samples at the end of the week.
The research lab then extracted DNA to analyze the bacteria composition in the stool samples. Specifically, the researchers were investigating the ratio of bacteria called firmicutes to another group, bacteroides, which can be used to gauge overall gut health and composition.
Analysis showed that participants with the best cardiovascular fitness had a higher firmicutes to bacteroides ratio. While most gut bacteria can be beneficial (even bacteroides in some cases), firmicutes bacteria generate metabolic by-products that help prevent bacteria in the gut from leaking into the body. Firmicutes are thought to help strengthen the intestinal lining and help prevent leaky gut syndrome. These findings reinforce the idea that "exercise as medicine."
According to the researchers, findings from this study and others could, one day, be used to create individual exercise prescriptions to improve gut -- and overall -- health.
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