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How crunches, sit-ups and HIIT can build gut health and keep you away from chronic illnesses

30 Mar 2023

Strong abdominal muscles, which are the outcome of sports, exercise and, of course, very good food habits, look good and change the composition of our gut health into the finest orchestration of digestion, assimilation and elimination

Now science has proved what we have advocated all along about the need for a sound gut health. I came across this study by the University of Calgary, which showed that how long a person exercised was more important than how hard they exercised during each workout in improving microbes in the gut. In other words, strong abdominal muscles, which are the outcome of sports, exercise and, of course, very good food habits, look good and change the composition of our gut health into the finest orchestration of digestion, assimilation and elimination. When orchestrated better with regulated breath, the microbiota remains healthy. The study found that physical activity of moderate duration (greater than 150 minutes per week) increased both the richness and diversity of the gut microbiomes.

It is now proven that athletes have better gut health. A Finnish study in 2019 observed how micro-organisms changed in the gut of 18 sedentary participants, “who started doing high-intensity interval training (bursts of 30 seconds of cycling with four minute recovery between four, then five and then six bouts or what we call HIIT) or moderate continuous training (40-60 minutes of cycling), three times per week over a two-week period.” These routines increased the presence of Bacteroidetes bacteria in them, a critical group of gut bacteria that play a role in breaking down sugars and proteins and producing anti-inflammatory molecules. Obese people have very low levels of these bacteria in their system. The training was found to lower levels of Clostridium and Blautia bacteria, which are known to increase inflammation and insulin resistance.

So what are the best ways to build strong abdominal muscles that can simultaneously work on your gut health?

1) Exercising for at least 30 minutes thrice a week is a must. Cross crunches, sit-ups, walking, cycling and pelvic floor activation activities can improve your digestive health. I suggest beginning with brisk walking, which activates your digestive tract contractions, which in turn allow the passage of food and waste through your intestines. This makes for more regular bowel movements and less gas and bloating throughout your gastro-intestinal tract. Cycling helps in the quickest movement of food through the digestive tract. Crunches and sit-ups move your abdominal muscles well enough to prevent bloating or gas build-up. Build up on this workout slowly, taking care of your endurance level, and take it to four or five times a week for best results. All abdominal exercises are best done on an empty stomach and should not be done post-meal. Pelvic floor activation involves squeezing and drawing in muscles around your anus (and vagina for women) that leads to better bladder control.

2) The exercise of yoga in particular with breathing and pranayama can be helpful for improving gut health. Pavanmuktasana, where we squeeze in the abdominal muscles, is one of the finest exercises. Ustrasana and Chakrasana, which involve stretching the midline, help in strengthening abdominal muscles. Dhanurasana and Naukasana help in crunching belly fat. Forward bending asanas like Mandukasana, by which you   ensure a gentle massage for the internal organs, and other forward-bending asanas like Paschimottanasana and Balasana improve flexibility of internal and external abdominal muscles.

3) Food plays a vital role in gut health. Fruits, sprouts, vegetables, dry fruits, nuts and seeds, especially which are regional and seasonal, can really add value.

4) Use different oils for cooking, like cold pressed coconut oil, sesame seed, mustard oil and various other oils available in the natural form.

5) Ghee, buttermilk and curd encourage gut bacteria.

6) Practise intermittent fasting, which involves a 14-16 hour gap, and a one or two-meal-a-day plan.

7) Even meditation and breath exercises can resolve gut health and support its transformation.Shavasana can literally neutralise the acidic state of your body, gradually over a long period of practice.

8) Synchronise your sleep-wake cycles with circadian rhythms.

Published in Indian Express

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