It also increased levels of cannabis-like substances produced by their own bodies, called endocannabinoids. Interestingly, the way exercise resulted in these changes was by altering the gut microbes.
For the study, published in the journal Gut Microbes, a group of scientists, led by Professor Ana Valdes from the School of Medicine at the University, tested 78 people with arthritis. Thirty eight of them did 15 minutes of muscle strengthening exercises every day for six weeks, and 40 did nothing.
At the end of the study, participants who did the exercise intervention had not only reduced their pain, but they also had more microbes in their guts of the kind that produce anti-inflammatory substances, lower levels of cytokines and higher levels of endocannabinoids.
The increase in endocannabinoids was strongly linked to changes in the gut microbes and anti-inflammatory substances produced by gut microbes called SCFAS.
In fact, at least one third of the anti-inflammatory effects of the gut microbiome was due to the increase in endocannabinoids.
“Our study clearly shows that exercise increases the body’s own cannabis-type substances which can have a positive impact on many conditions,” said Amrita Vijay, a research student at the varsity’s School of Medicine.
“As interest in cannabidiol oil and other supplements increases, it is important to know that simple lifestyle interventions like exercise can modulate endocannabinoids,” Vijay added.