The Synergistic Benefits of Green Exercise and a Healthy Gut

We live in a society that is obese, sedentary, and obsessed with taking antibiotics at every turn. These factors have a devastating impact on our long term health, destroying our gut. Three recently published research studies help paint a more complete picture on this topic when viewed together. Eating natural foods, exercising, and being in nature provide a solid foundation for healthy living.

The Appalachian Trail near "The Scales" Virginia Photo by Mark Ellison

The Appalachian Trail near “The Scales” Virginia
Photo by Mark Ellison

Can the Bacteria in Your Gut Impact Your Health?

Much is being made recently of the bacteria in our gut. Can what is in our gut really have an impact on our health, and our waist line? According to a recent report on NPR, European researchers have found that the less diverse those microbes are, the more likely people are to gain weight, become obese, and develop risk factors for serious health problems. The research study was spearheaded by S. Dusko Erhlich of the National Institute for Agricultural Research in France and recently published in the journal Nature. Ehrlich and his colleagues conducted a detailed analysis of the microbes in the guts of  292 Danish people. There were 169 obese people in the group and 123 who were lean. Looking at only the obese people in the study scientists found the people with the least bacterial diversity were likelier than those with a greater variety of microbes to keep gaining weight during the nine years the researchers kept track. People who had less microbial diversity, regardless of weight, were more likely to have a variety of risk factors for Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Those risk factors included insulin resistance and inflammation.

The findings of this study support the belief that eating a poor diet or taking excessive amounts of antibiotics may be associated with health problems, and may contribute to the obesity epidemic. The researchers also found evidence to support the role of diet.  When they put 49 French people who were overweight or obese on a low-calorie diet for six weeks, the variety of the volunteers’ intestinal microbes became much richer.

The researchers also identified eight species of bacteria that appeared to be missing among the people whose microbes were depleted, which could possibly be addressed by creating a probiotic that eliminates the deficiency.

This study provides significant support to the belief that we should eat healthy and limit our use of antibiotics.

Blueberries + Exercise = Polyphenol Rush to the Gut

A clinical trial including researcher Dr. Mary Ann Lila at the NC State University Plants for Human Health Institute in Kannapolis, NC,  the Dole Nutrition Research Laboratory, Dr. David Nieman at the Appalachian State University Human Performance Lab, and Rutgers University,  has revealed that exercise enhances the absorption of polyphenols, which are bioactive compounds found in fruits  and vegetables, particularly blueberries, that help lower blood pressure and blood glucose, reduce inflammation, and help fight off the damaging effects of free radicals. The research revealed that exercise (running in this study) increased the permeability of the colon, which allowed for greater absorption of polyphenol byproducts.The study involved the emerging field of metabolomics, and helped researchers determine that polyphenols are absorbed mostly by the colon, not the small intestine, as was previously thought. The study found that exercise increased gut permeability and helped the polyphenols get through the colon wall. Researchers also found that a participants in the study had a 14-hour afterburn effect from a combination of polyphenols and exercise, helping them burn fat while sleeping. Eating fruits and vegetables, particularly blueberries, and exercising, can have a dramatic impact on your health.

Hiking on the Appalachian Trail Photo by Mark Ellison

Hiking on the Appalachian Trail
Photo by Mark Ellison

The Colorado Diet: Get Outside & Eat Right

A recently published book  co-authored by Holly Wyatt, MD, associate director of the Anschutz Health and Wellness Center at the University of Colorado-Denver, State of Slim: Fix Your Metabolism and Drop 20 Pounds in 8 Weeks on the Colorado Diet, appears to provide some solutions to the issues identified by Erhlich and colleagues. Colorado has remained the leanest state in the country for the past decade, boasting an overall obesity rate of 21 percent, compared to 28% nationally. Wyatt has been studying for years the habits of the successful weight “losers” in the National Weight Control Registry, and by observing the healthy behaviors of Coloradans.  Wyatt emphasizes that anyone can benefit from the strategies suggested in this book, regardless of state.  Based on their study, Wyatt, and co-author Dr. James Hill, Director of the Anshutz Center, recommend six healthy habits for staying slim:

1) Obesity rates are linked to the number of steps taken in a day. The national average is 5,500 steps a day.The recommended number is 10,000 steps a day. Wear a pedometer to accurately count your steps. Get outside for a walk or a hike, or just walk around the office for a few minutes. Get out of your seat.

2) Eat quality food, staying away from processed foods. Focus on quality, not quantity.

3) Get outside and surround yourself with lean, active people. People in the same social networks tend to have similar body mass indices according to the authors.

4) Live your life consistent with what you want to achieve. Stay healthy to pursue what you are passionate about.

5) Keep an upbeat attitude. Research psychologist Barbara Fredrickson, PhD, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has shown that cultivating a positive mind-set can enhance relationships, improve work performance, reduce depression, and contribute to better health.

6) Savor the lifestyle of staying health. Enjoy it!

A Lifestyle Choice

These studies point to the critical importance of a healthy lifestyle which includes a balanced diet, lots of exercise, limited use of antibiotics, and a positive attitude. The presence of nature encourages us to get outside. Having a garden to grow some of our own food will prompt us to eat less processed foods. It is a lifestyle choice to exercise, eat healthy, and develop a positive attitude. When all these come into balance you will find that each encourages you to maintain the others so you can continue to pursue the life you are passionate about.

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