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The link between exercise and healthy food is more than a gut feeling

Plus a bonus recipe

The ever-changing world of gut health can be a complex area to understand. Food and nutrition have a huge role to play in keeping the good bacteria in our gut healthy, but what about exercise?

Today we will talk about how food and exercise go hand-in-hand when it comes to keeping the little bugs in our gut happy!

Gut health and the microbiome

There are approximately 40 trillion live microbes (most of which are bacteria) living in a healthy gut1. The environment in the lower small intestine and large intestine is prime real estate that supports the growth of a diverse and abundant population of bacteria. This environment and mix of bacteria, viruses and by-products is what is collectively known as your microbiome2,3. Hosting a diverse microbiome is linked to positive health outcomes, with studies finding those who have a low variety of bacteria in their gut are more likely to experience obesity, eczema and coeliac disease2.

The link between the microbiome and exercise

We know exercising regularly can  enhance our immune system and decrease inflammation over time. But did you know that 70% of the body’s immune system is actually in the gut? This highlights just how important a healthy gut is for our overall health and immunity. Exercise and physical fitness can also help diversify the types of bacteria in your gut, which is essential for good gut health as variety is key. Lastly, regular bowel habits are important for keeping the balance of gut bacteria in check. Exercise can help keep us regular by speeding up the time it takes for food to pass through our intestines3, 4.

Eating to support gut health

Fibre is the main nutrient the good bacteria in our gut feeds off, as our bodies alone can’t digest it. It’s important to eat a wide variety of fibre-rich foods, like wholegrains, legumes, pulses, fruits and vegetables to keep our gut happy and healthy.  Eating wholegrains like oats, grainy bread or whole breakfast cereals, which are rich in carbohydrates, will give our body the energy it needs to carry out exercise. Try our roast veggie bowl for a fibre-packed lunch or dinner.

Roast Veggie Bowl

Serves: 4

A bowl containing an assortment of chopped healthy vegetables.


  • 4 small potatoes, diced
  • 1 medium sweet potato, diced
  • 1 cup red cabbage, thinly sliced
  • 2 carrots, julienned
  • 1 red capsicum, thinly sliced
  • 1 bunch broccolini, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cups cooked quinoa (or rice)
  • 1⁄2 medium avocado, sliced
  • 1 lemon, cut into quarters
  • Dressing
  • Sesame seeds


  1. Preheat oven to 190 degrees celsius. Line two baking trays with baking paper.
  2. On the first baking tray, add the potato, sweet potato and carrots. Drizzle with half of the oil, paprika and sea salt. Toss to combine. Bake for a total of 20-25 minutes or until golden brown and tender.
  3. On the second baking tray, add the cabbage, red capsicum and broccolini. Drizzle with the remaining oil, paprika and sea salt. Toss to combine.
  4. Once the potatoes and carrots have been cooking for 10 minutes, add the second tray to the oven and bake for around 15-20 minutes.
  5. To serve, place cooked quinoa in two bowls and divide the vegetables evenly. Garnish with avocado and season with a dressing of your choice and sesame seeds. Enjoy!


  1. de Clercq CN, Groen AK, Romijn JA, Nieuwdorp M. Gut Microbiota in Obesity and Undernutrition. Adv Nutr [Internet]. 2016 Nov [cited 2020 Sep 7]; 7(6): 1080–89.
  2. Valdes AM et al. Role of the gut microbiota in nutrition and health. BMJ [Internet]. 2018 Jun 13 [cited 2020 Sep 7];361(1):36-44.
  3. Niemana DC, Wentz LM. The compelling link between physical activity and the body’s defense system. J Sport Health Sci [Internet]. 2019 May [cited 2020 Sep 7];8(3):201–17.
  4. Monda et al. Exercise Modifies the Gut Microbiota with Positive Health Effects. Oxid Med Cell Longev [Internet]. 2017 Mar 5 [cited 2020 Sep 8].

Last updated: April 12, 2021 at: 3:55 pm