Did you know that different types of exercise can affect your gut health in different ways? Exercise plays a huge role in increasing certain microbes in the gut that help to reduce the risk of inflammatory diseases as well as type two diabetes.
Studies that measured the gut microbiome before and then after a six week period where the participants exercised three times per week for 30 minutes, showed that this change alone increased the amount and diversity of microbes in the gut.
I personally believe that having a balance of different styles of exercise is the best way to optimise your gut health and support a healthy microbiome but here is some more information about how low and high-intensity exercise can support gut health.
Let’s talk low-intensity exercise first
If you are having problems with your gut health or your main priority in your health regime is to optimise your gut health, then I would start with low-intensity exercise. This could be anything from a traditional strength workout to a long outdoor walk. I would recommend this for beginners to exercise or for people with gut problems because doing high-intensity workouts can actually do harm if that is all you do.
The reason for this is because with a high-intensity workout your body, on a mechanical level, shifts the blood flow from your digestive tract to working and pumping your muscles in order to keep you powering through. This means as you are exercising your digestive system is slowing down which can cause problems after the workout is done.
If you have a slow digestive system and constipation is a constant problem for you then I really recommend upping your low-intensity training.
What about high-intensity training, I hear you cry
Do not let me put you off high-intensity interval training (HIIT). HIIT training can have a lot of benefits for gut health too. If you aren’t experiencing gastrointestinal problems things like burpees, sprints, box jumps, jump lunges can cause inflammation, but if you already have good gut health and are taking a wonderful probiotic then this inflammation can actually be beneficial.
Your body’s attempt to lessen this inflammation contributes to increasing its performance but also can boost the immune system and 80% of our immune system is found in the digestive tract, so this correlation can have a positive effect on the gut microbiome. It is also said that belly fat can cause inflammation so reducing this is obviously going to impact your gut health in a positive way. HIIT training I find to be the most efficient way of burning fat.
What about yoga?
I thoroughly recommend introducing yoga into your routine. I am all about balance in life in general but also when it comes to working out. Yoga is not only great for stretching out the muscles and increasing strength in a different way, but it also has the mindfulness element that is incredibly important for our mental wellbeing. Stress can heighten gut problems and so slowing down your mind and becoming more present in yoga sessions can keep your gut healthy.
Breathing techniques are great and taught in most styles of yoga. Inhaling and exhaling through your nose stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system (the rest and digest system). This helps you to breathe deep into your stomach (diaphragmatic breathing) rather than chest breathing. Think of the parasympathetic nervous system pulling you back and putting the breaks on compared to the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) that gets you fired up for movement. Nasal breathing is key.
It is also worth knowing that gut health starts in the mouth. The microbiome in the mouth changes whether you breathe through your nose or mouth. A healthy microbiome gets out of balance with constant mouth breathing which is a big trigger for issues further down the system. Digestion starts in your mouth. Therefore, learning to breathe through your nose has an incredible, positive effect on your digestive and gut health.
What should you do first
My advice is to start with low-intensity exercise if you are new to working out or if you’re prone to gut health problems. I would start taking a great probiotic if you aren’t already too. Then once you are in a great routine you can up the anti and mix your workouts up a bit more to get even greater results.
In a perfect world, I would recommend having a nice balance of traditional strength training, hit training, yoga and getting a good step count daily. To add to this, I think that it is extremely important to choose a style of exercise that you love doing because if you are dreading every session then that can become stressful and can lead to stress hormones being released.
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