This new year, it's not only the holiday binge that will compel one to start moving and getting fit: new research has confirmed yet again the astounding benefits of exercise for the brain and metabolism.
A team of researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder have discovered that exercise early in life can positively influence good bacteria in the gut and promote healthier brain and metabolism in one's lifetime.
This good news for this year's early starters in fitness was published in the journal Immunology and Cell Biology.
The Lowdown On Good Bacteria
There are more than 100 trillion good bacteria present in the human gut, and these microorganisms are believed to influence lifelong health.
Living in the intestines shortly after birth, these microbes are crucial in developing immunity, brain development and many different body processes. Their power: they can add up to 5 million genes and tremendously affect human function and physiology.
Gut bacteria can change in numbers throughout one's life and be affected by diet, sleep, lifestyle and other external factors, but the new study argued that, at a young age, they can be particularly "plastic" — a malleable quality that can offer "a window of opportunity" to optimize long-term health.
Exercise Benefits On Microbial Community
Exercise was found to help microbial communities in the stomach to better grow and develop.
"Exercise affects many aspects of health, both metabolic and mental, and people are only now starting to look at the plasticity of these gut microbes. That is one of the novel aspects of this research," said Monika Fleshner, psychology professor and senior study author.
The researchers have discovered that young rats voluntarily exercised had more positive microbial structure, including more probiotics or helpful live bacterial species in their stomach, versus rats that were sedentary.
The young rats exhibited this advantage over adult rats, even when such adult counterparts also exercised.
The team is yet to pinpoint the specific age range when gut bacteria is most likely to change, but the results indicated that the earlier, the better.
The robust probiotic community also appeared to promote healthy brain and antidepressant effects, Fleshner added. According to previous studies, the human brain reacts to signals from gut bacteria, although the exact mechanism and way of communicating is still under investigation.
The team plans to further study this plasticity of good bacteria in adults, whose gut microbes tend to be more stable and difficult to alter.
Exercises To Try This New Year
Fresh from the holiday season, one can perform a number of functional exercises. Functional fitness consists of practical routines that allow muscles such as the biceps, triceps, or glutes to work as a whole and not in isolation.
These functional exercises include:
Burpees – These can be the hardest and the most effective at once, needing no equipment. Here, one combines squat jumps and pushups, resulting in a higher calorie burn than most other exercises of its kind.
Squat jumps – These require rapidly and repeatedly contracting and stretching muscles, effectively raising one's heart rate and building strength. This calorie burner, too, needs no special skill as long as one's shoes can last numerous sessions.
Jump rope – Try this classic exercise that can burn up to 220 calories in a mere 20 minutes.
Stair-jogging and -walking – Simply jogging up the stairs can burn at least 150 calories in 15 minutes. If one does not have stairs in the house, time spent in the park or the public stadium will do.
Mountain climbers – All one needs is the floor: start with a pushup on the toes and hands, and move the right knee toward the chest and rest it on the foot of the floor. Jump up, and bring the right and left knees in alternating forward and backward motions.
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