Drinking alcohol has long been a ubiquitous element of western culture. Today most Americans drink, and even more are reporting to drink in excess. However, health-conscious consumers are now taking more action to stay physically fit in spite of the negative effects of drinking. If you’ve tried to work off the one-too-many cocktails you drank with an extra spinning class, you are not alone. Many gym-goers will follow that logic, as alcohol calories are easy to add up at happy hour, and somewhat more difficult to burn on the treadmill. But besides avoiding the extra pounds that a boozy evening can add to your waistline, exercise has been proven to actually offset the negative effects of alcohol, a new study suggests.
The British Medical Journal of Sports Medicine recently published the results of a unique research project. The first of it’s kind, it sought to examine the inverse relationship between physical activity and death from alcohol-related diseases. A group of six doctors analyzed over thirty thousand participants, aged forty and above, using eight British population-based surveys. They separated these individuals into six categories based on their alcohol consumption:
1.Those who had never drink
2.Ex-drinkers, 3.Occasional Drinkers
4.Moderate Drinkers (Less than 14 servings a week for women, and 21 a week for men)
5. Hazardous Drinkers (More than 14 for women, 21 for men)
6. Harmful Drinkers (Over 35 drinks a week for women, over 49 for men).
Those groups were then cross-referenced with three physical activity categories:
1.Inactive (less than two hours of activity per week)
2. Moderately Active (about two hours per week)
3. Very Active (more than two hours per week).
Over twelve years, from 1992-2006, doctors carefully recorded about six thousand deaths that occurred in the participants. After eliminating natural causes and unrelated illness, the study proved a strong link between deaths from cancer and cardiovascular disease and drinking alcohol. Across the board, the more the individuals drank, the higher the risk. The two categories associated with the most drinking, hazardous and harmful drinkers, with more than 14 drinks a week for women and 21 for men, were not only at a higher risk for death from alcohol-related illness, but higher risk for death from any cause.
However, when combined with the data gathered regarding physical activity, researchers found more hopeful outcomes. For those who were moderately active, the risks of alcohol-related deaths and deaths from any causes were lessened significantly. And what’s even more surprising, that same group of moderately active participants, when combined with occasional drinking (not every week) saw even less risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease overall, even less than those who abstain from alcohol altogether. It’s especially encouraging that these benefits come at relatively low levels of exercise. Two hours of movement a week can easily be accomplished by an evening walk or extra gardening on the weekends.
The BJSM states that because the study was purely observational, meaning they didn’t take into account specific drinking patterns or other lifestyle factors, so more research needs to be done to conclude the inverse relationship between exercise and alcohol. But, the doctors are clear to note the tendency between physical activity and better health overall. And sedentary lifestyles are unanimously becoming harmful for every type of person, regardless of gender, race, or age. While numerous people still work in traditional office job environments where sitting for hours on end is the norm, many are taking action. Standing desks offer a great alternative to conventional office chairs, and simply walking on your lunch break can really improve your overall health.
This study comes at a crucial time for Americans especially, since binge drinking is on the rise, and not just for rowdy college kids. NBC news has recently reported about eighteen percent of Americans were binge drinking in 2012, a nine percent increase since 2005. And, what’s particularly interesting, is women are becoming binge drinkers more frequently than men, but they are also typically more active. While exercise is undoubtedly beneficial to all, it isn’t a cure-all method when it comes to over-indulging. For optimal health, exercise daily, eat a variety of whole foods and plant-based meals, and keep drinking to an occasional occurrence, experts say.