Short-term physical exercise impacts on the human holobiont obtained by a randomised intervention study.
Human well-being has been linked to the composition and functional capacity of the intestinal microbiota. As regular exercise is known to improve human health, it is not surprising that exercise was previously described to positively modulate the gut microbiota, too. However, most previous studies mainly focused on either elite athletes or animal models. Thus, we conducted a randomised intervention study that focused on the effects of different types of training (endurance and strength) in previously physically inactive, healthy adults in comparison to controls that did not perform regular exercise. Overall study duration was ten weeks including six weeks of intervention period. In addition to 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing of longitudinally sampled faecal material of participants (six time points), detailed body composition measurements and analysis of blood samples (at baseline and after the intervention) were performed to obtain overall physiological changes within the intervention period. Activity tracker devices (wrist-band wearables) provided activity status and sleeping patterns of participants as well as exercise intensity and heart measurements.
Different biometric responses between endurance and strength activities were identified, such as a significant increase of lymphocytes and decrease of mean corpuscular haemoglobin concentration (MCHC) only within the strength intervention group. In the endurance group, we observed a significant reduction in hip circumference and an increase in physical working capacity (PWC). Though a large variation of microbiota changes were observed between individuals of the same group, we did not find specific collective alterations in the endurance nor the strength groups, arguing for microbiome variations specific to individuals, and therefore, were not captured in our analysis.
We could show that different types of exercise have distinct but moderate effects on the overall physiology of humans and very distinct microbial changes in the gut. The observed overall changes during the intervention highlight the importance of physical activity on well-being. Future studies should investigate the effect of exercise on a longer timescale, investigate different training intensities and consider high-resolution shotgun metagenomics technology.
DRKS, DRKS00015873 . Registered 12 December 2018; Retrospectively registered.