Study finds link between exercise, alcohol consumption

Rebecca Savransky, Managing Editor

People tend to consume greater amounts of alcohol on days when they exercise more, a new Northwestern Medicine study found.

The study, published online in Health Psychology, determined that between Thursday and Sunday, people drink alcohol and exercise more than on other days.

“Insufficient physical activity and alcohol use are both linked to many health problems, and excessive alcohol use has many indirect costs as well,” Feinberg Prof. David Conroy, lead author of the study, said in a news release. “We need to figure out how to use physical activity effectively and safely without having the adverse effects of drinking more alcohol.”

The study involved 150 participants between the ages of 18 and 89. Participants recorded their physical activity and alcohol use in smartphones for 21 days at a time, during three different times throughout one year.

“In this study, people only have to remember one day of activity or consumption at time, so they are less vulnerable to memory problems or other biases that come in to play when asked to report the past 30 days of behavior,” Conroy said in a news release. “We think this is a really good method for getting around some of those self-report measurement problems.”

Other studies examining similar topics found that people who exercise more tend to drink more alcohol, but the study did not yield the same results.

In the future, Conroy hopes to look further into what prompts people to drink more on days they exercise.

“Perhaps people reward themselves for working out by having more to drink or maybe being physically active leads them to encountering more social situations where alcohol is consumed — we don’t know,” Conroy said in a new release. “Once we understand the connection between the two variables we can design novel interventions that promote physical activity while curbing alcohol use.”

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