Key Message: Exercising at a young age can have a positive effect on gut bacteria

Action Point: Ensure you and your children get some level of physical activity each day to ensure optimum health and build a strong gut and immune system

The human gut contains over 100 trillion microorganisms and recent research has shown that exercising at a young age can promote a healthier brain and metabolic activity of the course of a lifetime by changing the gut composition.

The research, published in the journal Immunology and Cell Biology, shows that during early human development, there may be a window of opportunity to improve the chances of better long term health.

The positive effects of exercise have been well documented. Physical activity reduces the chances of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and it ensures a range of other functions work properly. Now, a team from the University of Colorado-Boulder believes we can add the digestive system’s microbial community to that list.

Gut microbes are fundamental to the development of your immune system and other neural functions. In fact these microbes can add as many as 5 million genes to a person’s overall genetic profile and therefore have incredible power to influence aspects of human physiology.

During adult life, this diverse microbial community is influenced by various environmental factors such as diet and sleep patterns and although it remains adaptable as we grow, researchers have found that the gut microorganisms are especially ‘plastic’ at a young age.

Monika Fleshner, a professor in CU-Boulder’s Department of Integrative Physiology and author of the study said “a robust, healthy community of gut microbes also appears to promote healthy brain function and provide antidepressant effects”.

Future research will further investigate how these microbes influence brain function in a long term way and researchers also plan to explore new ways of encouraging positive gut microbe flexibility in adults who tend to have more stable microbial communities that are more resistant to change.


1. University of Colorado at Boulder. (2015) “Early-life exercise alters gut microbes, promotes healthy brain and metabolism.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, Accessed on 12th January 2015 at www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/12/151229204252.htm

2. Agnieszka Mika, Monika Fleshner. Early life exercise may promote lasting brain and metabolic health through gut bacterial metabolites. Immunology and Cell Biology, 2015; DOI: 10.1038/icb.2015.113

Sandra Di Giacomo Written by: Sandra Di Giacomo

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