According to a new study from the University of Colorado Boulder, being physically active in our early years may benefit our minds and bodies in adulthood—by way of the gut.
Researchers found that early-life exercise has a positive impact on the microbial community in the gut, which begins to develop shortly after birth. Specifically, exercise was linked to greater gut diversity and higher numbers of beneficial probiotic bacteria, which in turn improved metabolic function and immune system development. The result? Better overall health in the long run.
Results of the study, published in the journal Immunology and Cell Biology, also reveal that increased gut diversity was linked to healthy brain function, and that a thriving microbial community may offer beneficial anti-depressant effects by way of the gut-brain connection.
Although they did not pinpoint an exact age, study authors believe earlier is better when it comes to exercise and gut health benefits. That’s because while adult microbial communities tend to be more stable, those of babies and toddlers are still developing and therefore more adaptable to change.