The reasons to exercise are as numerous as they are varied. A regular workout routine can help you maintain a healthy weight, sleep better, improve your mood, increase your energy levels--and, as recent research has confirmed, improve your gut health. Researchers at the University of Illinois took a group of sedentary adults and sampled their gut microbiome compositions. All the study participants were then put on an exercise regime that consisted of 30 to 60 minutes of cardio exercises three times a week. After six weeks, the results were clear: the subjects' gut microbiomes had changed and become more diverse, with certain beneficial bacteria strains proliferating and other bad strains decreasing. Before you hit the trail for a vigorous 10-mile run in an attempt to achieve a healthier digestive tract, however, keep in mind that all exercises are not created equal when it comes to gut health. While getting moving can help balance your gut microbiome, exercising too strenuously can actually exacerbate existing digestive tract issues such as inflammation, particularly if you have an existing condition like inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) or ulcerative colitis. Your goal should be to get your heart pumping without overly stressing your body. But exactly what's the best way to do that? Try one of the following eight low-impact (yet highly effective!) exercises--and remember to continue to support your gut health efforts by eating healthy, drinking plenty of water, and taking a daily probiotic supplement.


Yoga has a well-earned reputation for helping people slim down, tone up and get healthier while being gentle on the body, making it an excellent option for those looking to reduce stress and improve gut health. What's more, there's a significant body of research to back up yoga's particular benefits for digestive health. One study found that those with inflammatory bowel disease experienced fewer symptoms when following an exercise regime that included an hour of yoga a day. Additional research has shown that the gut health promoting effects of yoga work equally well for children and adolescents with irritable bowel syndrome. In other words, spring for a group package at the local yoga studio, as the entire family can benefit from taking a yoga class or two!


One of the exercises that the University of Illinois' study participants could choose was jogging--and as the results of that study show, jogging is an excellent choice for those looking to bolster the diversity of their gut microbiome. Whether indoors on a treadmill or outside on a trail, a steady jog can dramatically improve your health. The key (as with all exercises on this list) is to work hard enough to break a sweat but not so hard that you overstress your body.


It can be easy to dismiss walking as an effective exercise routine. In the age of high-intensity workouts, walking just doesn't seem painful enough to work. In actually, walking is one of the best exercises you can do: it's extremely low-impact, it's an excellent starting point for those that are new to exercise, and you don't need any equipment to get started. As with yoga, walking has been shown in studies to help those suffering from poor gut health; study participants with irritable bowel syndrome experienced a significant drop in their gastrointestinal symptoms after taking up walking for six months. So put a pair of comfortable shoes on and get yourself out the door--just make sure that you're walking fast enough to get that heart rate up


Perhaps the ultimate in low-impact exercises, swimming is a particularly good choice for those who want to improve gut health while also protecting joint health. One caveat here: spending too much time in heavily-chlorinated pools (like most public pools are) can be counterproductive in terms of gut health, as the high levels of chlorine may have an effect on the good bacteria in your gut as well as the bad bacteria that can grow in pools. To the extent possible, trying swimming in fresh water. Hey, it's the perfect excuse for a trip to the beach!


On the road or in the gym, cycling is another great option for digestive health. Research has shown that low- to moderate-intensity cycling done for approximately three hours a week can increase the good bacteria in the gut (particularly Akkermansia) while lowering the number of bad strains (such as Proteobacteria).


Like walking, jogging, and cycling, using the elliptical machine was one of the options offered to the University of Illinois' study participants, proving its effectiveness at promoting gut health. The biggest benefit of using an elliptical machine over the other three exercises is that it lowers the amount of weight that the lower body must bear, making it better for those with chronic lower-body injuries.

Tai Chi

This low-impact, gentle exercise has been used in China for centuries to treat many health issues, including digestive tract problems. The slow and focused movements of Tai Chi center around the spine, meaning that the digestive organs can also benefit from the strengthening and toning effects of these circular motions. Many who practice Tai Chi note that it helps promote regular digestion and relieve constipation.


Similar to yoga, Pilates focuses on balance, posture, and flexibility, making it an excellent low-stress workout option. As an added bonus, several common Pilates moves--such as cat-cow and articulated bridge--work the muscles of the deep core in such a way as to promote proper digestion.

Choose Your Exercise Plan

Keep in mind that the particular exercise routine that you choose is less important than choosing one that you can keep up. Remember the University of Illinois study that we talked about above? After embarking on a workout routine for six weeks and seeing their gut health improve, participants were directed to return to their sedentary lifestyle for another six weeks. Perhaps unsurprisingly, their gut microbiomes also returned to their previous unbalanced, unhealthy state. The conclusion here is clear: exercise needs to be a regular habit to truly affect any meaningful change in your gut health. So lace up your sneakers, hit the gym and--of course!--support all the good work you're doing for your body with a daily probiotic supplement from LoveBug Probiotics.