Exercise may boost bacteria associated with anti-inflammation: Study

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

© Wavebreakmedia / Getty Images
© Wavebreakmedia / Getty Images

Related tags microbiome athletes exercise Sports nutrition

Regular exercise may increase the abundance of bacteria associated with anti-inflammation and reduce the abundance of bacteria associated with pro-inflammation in physically inactive elderly women, says a new study from China.

Led by scientists from Zhejiang University, the researchers report that eight weeks of an exercise protocol for the elderly women led to increases in the abundance of bacteria such as Verrucomicrobia​, which are associated with anti-inflammation,

Verrucomicrobia​ includes the genus Akkermansia​, which has previously been reported to reduce inflammation, improve the gut barrier, and increase levels of specific short chain fatty acids.

In addition, the women in the exercise group also displayed decreases in the abundance of bacteria such as Proteobacteria, which are associated with pro-inflammation, reported the researchers in the International Journal of Sports Medicine​.

Exercise and the microbiome

The study, which is published in the International Journal of Sports Medicine​, adds to the ever-growing body of science linking exercise and the microbiome.

Interest in how the gut microbiome is linked to athletic performance – and the potential of modulation of the microbiota via pre- and probiotics to boost performance – is an area of increasing interest.

A recent extensive review of the athletic gut microbiota (Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition​, 2020, Vol. 17, Article No: 24) found that much of the human research into the athletic microbiome has been done only recently.

Starting in 2014 in Ireland with a study on rugby players, 10 studies have looked into gut microbiome makeup among athletes, and seven of those have been published in only the past two years.  In addition to the rugby players, subjects have included professional cyclists, elite distance runners and competitive walkers and Olympic rowers. The data indicates that the gut microbiome of elite athletes is more diverse and displays a higher abundance of health-promoting bacterial species.

According to the scientists at Zhejiang University, while it has been reported that exercise can alter the gut microbiota composition, there is a current lack of data around effects of exercise on gut microbiota in the elderly.

Study details

The researchers recruited 14 women and randomly assigned them to one of two groups: An exercise group or a control group.

After eight weeks, they found that exercise was indeed associated with changes in the gut microbiota of the women.

Specifically, the researchers report that there were significant differences between the groups, notably for bacteria in the phylum Fusobacteria​, in the class Betaproteobacteria​, and in the order Bifidobacteriales​.

At family and genus levels, the researchers observed significant differences between the study groups for Bifidobacteriaceae, Bifidobacterium, ​and Gemmiger.

Commenting on the next steps in this field, the researchers called for studies to investigate the potential mechanisms behind the effects of exercise on the gut microbiota.

Source: International Journal of Sports Medicine (Thieme Group)
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1055/a-1301-7011
“Effect of an 8-week Exercise Training on Gut Microbiota in Physically Inactive Older Women”
Authors: F. Zhong, et al.

Sports & Active Nutrition Summit USA

The topic of the microbiome in the context of sports nutrition will be a focus of the upcoming NutraIngredients-USA Sports & Active Nutrition Summit 2021.

For more information and to register, please click on the image below.

Jan 28 - Feb 25, 2021   -   Four Online Events


  • The Changing Retail Landscape for Sports & Active Nutrition - Jan 28
  • The Opportunity of the Microbiome - Feb 4
  • Recovery - Feb 18
  • White Spaces in Sports & Active Nutrition - Feb 25

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