Exercise Alters Gut Microbiota Composition and Function in Lean and Obese Humans

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Abstract

PURPOSE

Exercise is associated with altered gut microbial composition, but studies have not investigated whether the gut microbiota and associated metabolites are modulated by exercise training in humans. We explored the impact of six weeks of endurance exercise on the composition, functional capacity, and metabolic output of the gut microbiota in lean and obese adults with multiple-day dietary controls prior to outcome variable collection.

METHODS

Thirty-two lean (n=18 [9 female]) and obese (n=14 [11 female]), previously sedentary subjects participated in six weeks of supervised, endurance-based exercise training (3 days/wk) that progressed from 30 to 60 minutes/day and from moderate (60% of heart rate reserve [HRR]) to vigorous intensity (75% HRR). Subsequently, participants subsequently returned to a sedentary lifestyle activity for a six week washout period. Fecal samples were collected before and after six weeks of exercise, as well as after the sedentary washout period, with 3-day dietary controls in place prior to each collection.

RESULTS

β-diversity analysis revealed that exercise-induced alterations of the gut microbiota were dependent on obesity status. Exercise increased fecal concentrations of short chain fatty acids (SCFAs) in lean, but not obese, participants. Exercise-induced shifts in metabolic output of the microbiota paralleled changes in bacterial genes and taxa capable of SCFA production. Lastly, exercise-induced changes in the microbiota were largely reversed once exercise training ceased.

CONCLUSION

These findings suggest that exercise training induces compositional and functional changes in the human gut microbiota that are dependent on obesity status, independent of diet and contingent on the sustainment of exercise.

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