How exercise can affect our alcohol consumption

People who train regularly and are in aerobic shape tend to drink a surprising amount of alcohol, according to a new study, well-placed for the holidays, on the interplay between fitness, exercise and exercise. absorption. The study, which looked at more than 40,000 American adults, found that active, physically fit men and women are more than twice as likely to be moderate or heavy drinkers as those in poor shape. The findings add to growing evidence from previous studies – and many of our bar tabs – that exercise and alcohol often go hand in hand, with implications for the health effects of each.

Many people, and some researchers, might be surprised to learn how much physically active people tend to drink. In general, people who develop a healthy habit, such as exercising, tend to adopt other healthy habits, a phenomenon known as habit grouping. Fit and active people rarely smoke, for example, and tend to eat healthy foods. So, it may seem logical that people who exercise often drink alcohol sparingly.

But several studies in recent years have found strong links between training and drinking. In one of the first, from 2001, researchers used responses from a survey of American men and women to conclude that moderate drinkers, defined in this study as people who ended up drinking about one drink per day, were twice as likely as those who did not drink. at all to exercise regularly. Subsequent studies revealed similar trends among college athletes, who drank significantly more than other college students, a population not famous for their temperance.

In another revealing study, as of 2015, 150 adults kept online diaries about when and how much they exercised and consumed alcohol for three weeks. The results showed that on the days they exercised the most, they also tended to drink the most afterwards.

But these and other earlier studies, while consistently linking more physical activity and more alcohol consumption, tended to be small or youth-centered, or relied on somewhat casual reports of this. that people told researchers about their workouts and alcohol consumption, which can be notoriously unreliable. .

So for the new study, titled “Fit and Tipsy?” and recently published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, researchers at the Cooper Institute in Dallas and other institutions have turned to more objective data on tens of thousands of American adults. All were part of the Cooper Center Longitudinal Study’s ongoing large, ongoing study examining heart health and its relationship to various behavioral factors and other medical conditions.

Study participants attended the Cooper Clinic in Texas for annual check-ups, and as part of those exams, performed treadmill tests of their aerobic fitness. They also completed detailed questionnaires about their exercise and drinking habits and if they were worried about their drinking. The researchers gathered the records of 38,653 participants who were of legal age and reported drinking at least once a week. (The authors excluded abstainers from the study mix because they wanted to compare light drinkers to heavier drinkers.) Then they calculated numbers.

As in previous studies, the healthier people were, the more likely they were to drink. Fittest women were about twice as likely to be moderate drinkers as women with poor aerobic capacity. Moderate consumption meant that women drank between four and seven glasses of beer, wine, or spirits in a typical week. Fittest men were more than twice as likely to be moderate drinkers – up to 14 drinks per week – than less fit men. The researchers took into account people’s reported exercise habits and adjusted them for age and other factors that might have influenced the results, and the odds remained consistently higher.

Fit men and some women also had a slightly higher likelihood of being heavy drinkers – defined as having eight or more drinks a week for women and 15 or more for men – than their less fit peers. Interestingly, fit women who drank a lot of alcohol often reported concerns about their level of alcohol consumption, while fit men in this category rarely did.

What might these results mean for those of us who train regularly to try and stay in shape? Although they clearly show that physical fitness and increased alcohol consumption go hand in hand, “most people probably do not associate physical activity and alcohol consumption as related behaviors,” he said. said Kerem Shuval, executive director of epidemiology at the Cooper Institute, who led the new study. So, people who exercise should be mindful of their alcohol consumption, he said, even tracking how often they soak each week.

Doctors and scientists can’t say for sure how many drinks might be too many for our health and well-being, and the total probably differs for each of us. But talk to your doctor or a counselor if you’re worried about your drinking (or your spouse, friends, or workout partners).

Of course, this study has limits. It mostly involved wealthy white Americans, and it only showed an association between fitness and alcohol consumption, not one causing the other. It also cannot tell us why sweating can lead to binge drinking, or vice versa.

“There are probably social aspects,” Dr Shuval said, with teammates and training groups bonding over beers or margaritas after a competition or training. Many of us have probably put a health halo around our exercise as well, making us feel that our physical exertion warrants an extra cocktail – or three. And, oddly enough, some animal studies show that exercise and alcohol shed light on parts of the brain related to reward processing, suggesting that while each, on their own, can be enjoyable, doing both might be doubly appealing.

“We need a lot more research” on the reasons for the relationship. Dr Shuval said. But for now, it’s worth keeping in mind, especially at this festive time of year, that our running or cycling outings or going to the gym could influence how often and how enthusiastically we celebrate. the new Year.

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