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Drinkers Getting More Exercise

September 1, 2009

A new study indicates that those who drink on a regular basis tend to exercise more frequently than nondrinkers, and those who drink an average of one or two drinks daily appear to be the most physically active.

After analyzing data from a government health survey of U.S. adults, researchers discovered that in general, there was a direct correlation between the amount of time people spent exercising and the number of alcoholic drinks they consumed on a monthly basis.

Heavy drinkers, or women who consumed at least 46 drinks in the past month and men who consumed 76 or more drinks, exercised an average of 20 minutes more per week than nondrinkers.

On the other hand, moderate drinkers, which included women who had 15 to 45 drinks in a month, and men who had 30 to 75, exercised an average of 10 more minutes each week.

Moderate and heavy drinkers were both more likely to engage in rigorous exercise, such as jogging, than light drinkers or those who abstain altogether, reported the researchers in the American Journal of Health Promotion.

When compared to non-drinkers, adults in both groups were about 14 percent more likely to claim getting some amount of vigorous exercise in a normal week.

This connection, of course, does not go to say that drinking is the key to an active lifestyle.

“We certainly would not advocate that abstainers should start drinking or light drinkers should start drinking heavily as a way to increase their exercise,” lead researcher Dr. Michael T. French, of the University of Miami, wrote to Reuters Health via email.

However, he did go on to say that the fact that people who drink tend to be more active than non-drinkers is a discovery “worth exploring further.”

French commented that one possible reason for the connection is that some regular drinkers use exercise as a way to burn off the calories from alcohol. The researchers say that another possibility is that drinking “responsible” levels of alcohol is a maker of a generally healthy lifestyle.

For some, relatively heavy drinking might even be part of a “sensation- seeking” lifestyle, speculated French and his colleagues.

They theorize that some heavier drinkers may be prone to engage in more adventurous outdoor activities like skiing or rock climbing. Some may even play team sports that end with a group trip to the bar after a game.

French noted that excessive drinking and alcohol abuse that harm a person”Ëœs relationships, health or ability to work are understood to have “serious psychological and physical consequences.”

But moderate drinking has been linked to possible health benefits, such as a lower risk of developing heart disease. This may be partly due to the overall lifestyle of the moderate drinker, which according to this study, includes more vigorous exercising. Research even shows that alcohol even has its direct benefits, like raising “good” HDL cholesterol.

Most experts advise women not to exceed more than one drink per day and men not to have more than two, in order to receive potential benefits without harm.

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