The human gastrointestinal microbiota and its unique metabolites regulate a diverse array of physiological processes with substantial implications for human health and performance. Chronic exercise training positively modulates the gut microbiota and its metabolic output. The benefits of chronic exercise for the gut microbiota may be influenced by acute changes in microbial community structure and function that follow a single exercise bout (i.e., acute exercise). Thus, an improved understanding of changes in the gut microbiota that occur with acute exercise could aid in the development of evidence-based exercise training strategies to target the gut microbiota more effectively. In this review, we provide a comprehensive summary of the existing literature on the acute and very short-term (<3 weeks) exercise responses of the gut microbiota and faecal metabolites in humans. We conclude by highlighting gaps in the literature and providing recommendations for future research in this area. NEW FINDINGS: What is the topic of this review? The chronic benefits of exercise for the gut microbiota are likely influenced by acute changes in microbial community structure and function that follow a single exercise bout. This review provides a summary of the existing literature on acute exercise responses of the gut microbiota and its metabolic output in humans. What advances does it highlight? Acute aerobic exercise appears to have limited effects on diversity of the gut microbiota, variable effects on specific microbial taxa, and numerous effects on the metabolic activity of gut microbes with possible implications for host health and performance.
Keywords: gut; human; microbiome; physical activity.
© 2023 The Authors. Experimental Physiology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of The Physiological Society.