By Gretchen Reynolds
Could an infusion of bacteria from the guts of athletes help inactive people to exercise more easily?
A new study of marathoners, mice and their respective intestines toys with that possibility. It finds that strenuous endurance exercise by human athletes increases the numbers of certain bugs in their microbiomes and that giving those bacteria to mice allows them to run longer.
But the study’s results and implications also raise many questions, including how fully we understand the intricate, entwined effects of exercise on our insides and our insides on exercise and whether, even if we can commercialize and provide athletes’ intestinal flora to other people, we should.
In recent years, of course, scientists, physicians and many of the rest of us have become fascinated by the makeup and potential impact of the gazillions of germs living within us. Accumulating evidence suggests that the composition of these microbes, our microbiome, affects our physical and mental health, weight, risk for various diseases and longevity.
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