Gut Bacteria Motivates Exercise

Gut Bacteria Motivates Exercise

What you can do now

You may be able to turn to the microbes in your gut for a boost of motivation to exercise.

Some days it can feel nearly impossible to find the motivation to exercise. Even if you set out your workout clothes the night before, signed up for a workout class, and plan to go with a friend, the minute that alarm goes off in the morning, all you want to do is hit the “snooze” button and go back to sleep. 

There are many reasons you may be lacking motivation: not enough sleep, stress, poor diet choices, and more. That’s not news. However, a new source of motivation may be the missing piece to get you up and exercising in the morning. And that source is your gut microbiome.

What Is the Gut Microbiome?

There are countless microbes that live in your intestines that are made up of bacteria, fungi, viruses, and other living things not visible to the naked eye. 

The human body is comprised of trillions of bacterial cells (roughly 40 trillion), and around 1,000 of those live in your gut. Each bacterial species that calls your gut home has a unique and important purpose in keeping you healthy. 

Why Gut Bacteria Is Important

The first microbes that you come into contact with are those of your mother when you were born. 

As babies grow, so does their gut microbiome. Throughout life, the goal is to have a high diversity of gut bacteria in order to reach the highest levels of health

The microbiome in your gut plays a role in:

And now, you can also add motivation to the list. 

A New Microbiome Finding

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine recently found that some gut bacteria trigger nerves that boost the desire to exercise

The study that resulted in these findings looked at lab mice and a number of different factors that were used to determine exercise performance. They included:

  • Genome sequences

  • Gut bacterial species

  • Bloodstream metabolites

  • Endurance

  • Voluntary wheel running time

When the studies resulted in different running performances, scientists looked further and found that the population of gut bacteria in the mice was the key factor in the mice’s running time. When given antibiotics to reduce their gut bacteria, the mice’s running performance significantly decreased (by half!). 

The Two Key Bacterial Players

Via this study, researchers found that the two bacterial species that played the largest role in the mice’s performance were Eubacterium rectale and Coprococcus eutactus. 

Both of these bacteria produce fatty acid amides (FAAs) that stimulate specific receptors on the gut’s sensory nerves that are connected to the brain. So, by stimulating these nerves, a specific part of the brain is also stimulated to increase the production of dopamine while exercising. 

And, as it turns out, the part of the brain that is stimulated is key to the brain’s motivation. This means that the flood of dopamine in this part of the brain while exercising also creates a reward system that increases the desire to exercise. 

This study strengthens the gut-brain connection that has already been established, but this time for a new way of looking at exercise physiology. It provides evidence that specific gut bacteria can help to enhance athletic performance in mice, and scientists are hopeful this will translate to humans.