Haims: Exercise performance and motivation are related to gut microbiome | VailDaily.com

Haims: Exercise performance and motivation are related to gut microbiome

Gut microbiota and its influence on our health and well-being have been well-researched and documented both within the United States and worldwide. Over the past few years, researchers have shared an abundance of information associating the relation between the gut–brain connection — particularly with neurodegenerative diseases.

The gut-brain connection is intriguing. Researchers believe that certain cells within the gut are programed to be directed to the brain and other places where needed. Yale University has been leading research in this area — particularly as it relates to how signals from the gut influence neurodegenerative diseases. At the University of Sydney, Cornell University, the Sloan Kettering Institute, they have been studying how changes in the microbiota of the gut, trigger an immune system response.

Scientists and health professionals worldwide have long known that our gut microbiota plays an important role in our health. Recently, researchers have shared new information that indicates gut microbiome has many more associations with our physiology than immune system protection, heart and brain health, and weight management to name a few. They are now sharing research that indicates an association that may influence our motivation to exercise.

It should not come as new news that exercise provides many benefits to our health and overall well-being. What is less understood is why some people may be more inclined to be physically active than others. Reasonably, some people choose to be physically active for the derived pleasure that comes from the release of endorphins. But, for others that find it challenging to get motivated to exercise at all, understanding that their gut may play a contributing roll may be a starting point to get moving.

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have reported that they have identified certain molecules in the gut of mice that stimulate sensory neurons in the brain, which elevate dopamine levels. It is believed that this interrelation may enhance motivation for exercise in humans. Christoph Thaiss, an assistant professor of microbiology at Penn Medicine stated, “If we can confirm the presence of a similar pathway in humans, it could offer an effective way to boost people’s levels of exercise to improve public health generally.”

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In the study, certain microbiome were taken from Boston marathon athletes and injected into mice to test performance. Researchers found that treadmill run times of mice with certain gut bacterial species were longer than in mice with lower levels. After research amongst different laboratories, it was found that two bacterial species, Eubacterium rectale and Coprococcus eutactus, were associated with better performance.

To confirm that there was a correlation to the various microbiome, researchers used antibiotics to eliminate gut microbes. Results showed that when the microbiome were eliminated, the mice became exhausted earlier and ran less on the treadmill wheels.

In a separate study conducted last year of gut microbiome in elite cross-country skiers, it was found that these athletes contained fewer types of harmful molecules within their gut than healthy non-athletes. Further, the study indicated that the microbiome of the skiers was more diverse and associated with metabolic health than in sedentary people.  

Exercise wields many diverse beneficial effects for overall health and the healthy functioning of the gut. However, as research is showing, the impetus for exercise may be in part reliant on the health of the gut itself and how the microbiome within the gut influences and stimulates the chemistry of the brain.

Scientists are studying and learning a lot about the way gut health affects our total well-being. However, one thing is currently clear: If we pay attention to the microbiome within our gut, we may just live a better quality of life.

There is a substantial amount of research regarding gut health and the many ways it plays a role in our well-being. Go online and do a web search about the subject matter. I assure you that you will be intrigued enough to make changes in your lifestyle.

Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Eagle County. He is an advocate for our elderly and available to answer questions. His contact information is VisitingAngels.com/comtns and 970-328-5526. 

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