Our gut bacteria do so much for us, including helping us to get fitter. So looking after them is as key as a good pair of trainers when we exercise! Energy levels and endurance during a workout are influenced by the effect ‘good’ bacteria have on our hormones and blood sugar. Our microbiota also helps our bodies to recover afterwards, managing lactic acid (which builds up in the muscles during exercise and can give us a ‘stitch’) and boosting nutrient absorption so our bodies can rebuild and repair.
Research shows that our microbiome adapts according to the exercise we do: the guts of professional cyclists are primed to synthesise amino acids produced during rigorous training. And long-distance runners have higher concentrations of bacteria which help with muscle maintenance and the breakdown of lactic acid.
And it works both ways: exercise boosts our microbiota. Regular exercise increases both the number of good bacteria in our gut and the diversity of species found there. Just a few weeks of consistent exercise can make a difference. And, of course, exercise reduces stress levels, and stress disrupts our microbiota.
5 Tips for exercising safely
Exercise, at any age, needs to be safe. And the older we get, the harder it is to recover from injury. Follow these tips to help you exercise without strain:
- Don’t work out through pain. If you think you’re injured, rest and consult a doctor/physio
- Have a least one rest day to allow muscles to rest and repair. I usually take two a week (sometimes three!)
- Stretch before and after exercise – increasingly important as we get older
- Don’t just do one type of exercise – complement cardio or high-impact workouts with more gentle stretch-based movement like yoga or pilates
- Look after your bones – green veg, dairy products and tinned sardines deliver bone-building nutrients.