Drink Yourself Fit


Speaking of drinking yourself fat, a new study, based on data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, finds that drinkers are more likely to exercise than teetotalers are. And the more they drink, the more exercise they get:

Among women, those currently using alcohol exercised 7.2 minutes more per week than those who abstained. Relative to abstainers, the more alcohol used, the longer the person exercised. Specifically, light, moderate and heavy drinkers exercised 5.7, 10.1 and 19.9 minutes more per week. Overall, drinking was associated with a 10.1 percent increase in the probability of engaging in vigorous physical activity. The results for men were similar.

The study's lead author, University of Miami health economist Michael French, warns that "these results do not suggest that people should use alcohol to boost their exercise programs." Frankly, that interpretation did not occur to me. It seems much more plausible, as French goes on to suggest, that drinkers exercise more to compensate for extra caloric intake:

While those who are at risk for problem drinking should minimize or curtail their consumption of alcohol, light to moderate drinking may be health-enhancing for some people. If responsible drinkers are using exercise to partially counteract the caloric intake from alcohol, that is not such as bad thing.

Presumably French is alluding to the impact of moderate drinking on heart disease risk. That factor, together with the additional exercise, may help account for a finding of an earlier study by French: "Adults who drink moderately have the highest odds of reporting above-average health status compared with lifetime alcohol abstainers, former drinkers and all other current drinking groups."

The new study, published by the American Journal of Health Promotion, is available here (PDF).