Exercise not only improves your body shape and mood, it’s also been shown to benefit your gut. Here’s how working out keeps you fitter inside…

By Katherine Watt 

We all know how good we feel after an exercise session. That post-workout high is what spurs us on to leave the sofa and don our fitness gear in the first place! But as well as improved heart health, a more toned physique and a boosted, feel-good outlook, there is now evidence that exercise can actually change your gut microbiome.

In a study by the University of Illinois, a team of researchers tracked changes in the gut microbiota of people living a more sedentary lifestyle and then a more active one, all while maintaining their usual diet. They discovered that when people followed a more active lifestyle there was an increase in short chain fatty acids, which promote healthy intestinal cells, reduce inflammation and generate energy. That gives us all the more reason to work up a bit of a sweat. Read on to find out some of the best moves for good gut health.

Gut-healthy exercises

Any exercise you do will help to change your gut bacteria, and the key is to include a variety of both aerobic and strength training. High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) has been shown to be particularly effective. However, if you fancy something a little lower tempo to ease yourself in, why not try digestion yoga? We’ve selected our top three moves by instructor, Elena Voyce to help ease your tummy troubles…

Kick-start your digestion

This simple sequence helps stimulate digestive juices if you’re feeling sluggish.

Lie on your front with your feet together and legs bent at a 90-degree angle.

Bend your elbows and put your palms down with your thumb and index finger touching.

Tilt your head to the right side and lower it down to the floor in between your elbows.

Breathe in and as you exhale, rotate your pelvis, feet and knees to your left side (the opposite side to where your head is pointing).

Inhale and return to the centre.

Follow this sequence five times on each side.

Easier downward dog

The classic pose helps to lengthen your back and stomach muscles to relieve constipation and indigestion, but it’s not always suitable if you suffer from acid reflux. However, Elena’s modification means you can reap all the benefits without the discomfort; all you need is a chair!

Keep your arms and legs straight, bend forward from your hips and lower your arms onto the back of a chair with your thumbs pointing towards the sky and keeping your back straight so you create a right angle.

Look down and lower your head between your arms as you exhale before gradually lifting and looking ahead as you inhale.

Slowly repeat the head movement five times and feel the stretch along your back and sides.

Stretch your sacroiliac

This exercise involves crunching and stretching your digestive organs as well as the base of your spine – the sacroiliac joint.

Lie on your back with legs straight, arms by your side, then pull your dominant leg towards your chest.

Push your leg out and up, keeping it as straight as possible and raise your upper body, engaging your core and allowing your arms to move up.

Slowly lower your leg and body back down onto the mat to the starting position before repeating with your other leg. Do five on each side.