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Exercise and Gut Health

I know, you have probably heard so much about the exercise topic, and from various angles.

Yes, exercise or regular physical activity has a proven track record of improving your overall health and wellbeing. You can break these benefits up into the following categories.


  • Improved sleep quality

  • Reduced feelings of anxiety

  • Reduced blood pressure


  • Brain health, including reduced chances of brain disease and depression

  • Lower risk of heart disease

  • Lower risk of various cancers

  • Reduces weight and maintenance of healthy weight

  • Improved bone health

  • Improved balance and coordination

But did you know that exercise can have a direct impact on your gut health?

Almost 2000 years ago, Hippocrates (Father of modern medicine) suggested that all disease start in the gut. While many, but not all diseases can be directly linked to the gut, the health of your gut sure plays an integral part in how your body responds to potential diseases.

There is mounting evidence that shows the benefits of exercise on the gut. One study suggests that exercise can promote the growth of a bacteria that produces a fatty acid called butyrate. Butyrate can help repair the gut lining and reduce inflammation which can in turn reduce the risk or even prevent bowel diseases, obesity, diabetes etc.

Another study found that women who did at least 3 hours of light exercise per week had increased levels of Faecalibacterium prausnitzii (Reduce inflammation), Roseburia hominis (Reduced inflammation), and Akkermansia muciniphila (Improves lean body mass and metabolic health) compared with sedentary individuals.

It is important to remember that sleep, stress levels, diet, and environmental factors all play a role in your body’s response to disease.

For example, we know that a high inflammatory diet, a stressful lifestyle and high intensity exercise can put your body into a high inflammatory state, which can cause or lead to illness and disease. It is therefore really important to get a balance and to learn to recognise and understand your body.

There are no worthwhile ‘quick fixes’, you need to make many long-term changes to really live happy and healthy.

Here are my suggestions for physical change:

  • Do moderate intensity physical activity for at least 30min most days of the week (Brisk walk, Swim, Cycle, Gym, etc.)

  • Do 1-2 High Intensity or weight bearing exercises at least 2 days per week (Use bands, machines, bodyweight exercises, weights training, and or faster activities but shorter in duration e.g. 15-20min)

  • Limit the time you sit for more than 30min (Sedentary lifestyle has been linked with many chronic diseases, so make sure you get up regularly and move around)

  • Get out in nature, not only will you get a good dose of Vit D, but it is linked with better mental health too.

It is important to make small, manageable changes at a time. Start implementing movement that you can consistently do and increase this over time. Even if you start with 20 minutes of brisk walking 3 days.

Remember, every small step in the right direction leads you closer to your optimal health and ultimately wellness.

Michiel Badenhorst

Registered Clinical Exercise Physiologist

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