A new study out of the University of Colorado Boulder suggests that exercise may be even more important for young children than previously imagined, as it has a positive impact on metabolism, brain development, and diversity of the microbiome.
The study examined the development of juvenile rats and found that there was a special window toward the beginning of life during which an active lifestyle would have powerful and long lasting effects on a number of health outcomes. Researchers are exploring whether or not these results can translate to human experience.
Researchers also noted that the microbial diversity may have an effect on the relationship with associated optimal brain development and metabolism, as a well-developed microbiome can add up to five million genes to a person’s genetic profile.
A word to the adults who may be reading this article and despairing about their relatively sedentary childhoods: there is still a great deal of plasticity in the human microbiome, and this can be affected by diet and lifestyle in addition to exercise.
Of course, the important question moving forward will be how to best take advantage of the “special window of opportunity” that makes childhood exercise so beneficial to the microbiome. The study didn’t produce an exact age range that was most important for developing rats--and even if it had, translating the results to humans would be impractical at best. For now, it appears that the earlier the better; and indeed, beginning exercise early is an important component of developing lifelong habits for good health.
Understanding the microbial ecosystem and its relation to early lifespan development will also allow scientists to improve plasticity in adults, which is another important goal for future studies.
For more information on exciting new microbial research, visit the official CosmosID website.