There's good news today for regular exercises who enjoy moderate amounts of alcohol. Turns out, your daily jogs or cardio classes may help to lessen the overall negative health benefits of your evening cocktails.
In a study recently published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, researchers looked at how the effects of alcohol differed between exercises and non-exercisers. While some research has found a few positive benefits between alcohol consumption and heart disease, most of the alcohol-related research to date has linked drinking alcohol with higher rates of cancer and death. But this data is often isolated from the other factors that affect a person's overall health, such as diet, use of tobacco, and whether or not they exercise.
So the research team from Australia's University of Sydney looked specifically at the health effects of drinking alcohol for those who exercised regularly and those who did not. The team studied the health patterns of more than 36,000 middle-aged men and women over 10 years, tracking their death rates and causes of death.
Not surprisingly, researchers found the greatest risk of death from all causes was among those who drank the most — we're talking eight to 20 drinks per week for women and 21 to 49 drinks per week for men. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines heavy drinking as eight drinks or more per week for women and 15 or more for men.
But when the researchers looked at moderate drinkers — defined by the CDC as women who had one drink or less per day and men who drank less than two — they found that exercise played a significant role in minimizing the negative health effects of the alcohol consumed. Regular exercisers were those who got at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity per week in any form, from running to biking to walking the dog. And the more people exercised, the more they were able to offset their drinking.
To a point.
Researchers found that no amount of exercise could lessen the negative effects for those who were considered heavy drinkers.
The results of the study are limited because the researchers did not also look at the other factors that may affect a person's health such as diet, medications, tobacco use or occupation. The team also relied solely on self-reported data, which may or may not be reliable.
Still, the study paints a clearer picture of the role that alcohol and exercise can play in a person's health. And it offers just one more compelling reason to lace up and make exercise a regular part of your daily routine.