Belly Photo by FatTeen97

You exercise for heart health, lean muscle strengthening, fat loss and happy hormones. Now it turns out that all those workouts may also benefit your gut bacteria — a (hopefully) diverse ecosystem of trillions of microorganisms that live in your intestines and help keep your digestive system running smoothly.

Thus far, most research on gut bacteria has focused on how to eat your way to a diverse microbiome, but a recent novel study from University College Cork demonstrates that it isn’t just what you put into your body as fuel — exercise may have an effect on gut bacteria.

The study, published online in the journal Gut, found that professional athletes had better gut bacteria diversity than average people. A healthy and varied gut bacteria ecosystem has been linked to everything from low obesity rates to fewer symptoms of mental disorders like ADHD and anxiety, while non-diverse guts are associated with inflammation and markers of metabolic syndrome such as weight gain and insulin resistance.

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