Alcohol a Motivator for Exercise?
Study: Drinkers Appear to Get More Exercise Than Non-Drinkers, but Longer Workouts Don't Outweigh Health Woes of Heavy Drinking
Sept. 1, 2009 -- People who drink alcoholic beverages on a regular basis may
be more likely than teetotalers to exercise -- and the more they drink, the
more likely they are to work out, a new study shows.
“A possible motivation is that people who consume alcohol recognize that it
contains a fair number of calories, so they exercise to counteract caloric
intake,” study author Michael T. French, PhD, of the University of Miami, tells
WebMD. “Those who drink without misusing it may be interested in balancing
French and fellow researchers analyzed data from the 2005 Behavioral Risk
Factor Surveillance System, a yearly phone survey of 230,000 Americans, and
found a “strong statistical association” between alcohol use and moderate to
The study, published in the September-October issue of the American
Journal of Health Promotion, reports that:
- Compared with abstainers, light drinkers exercised 5.7 more minutes per
week, moderate drinkers 10.1 more minutes, and heavy drinkers 19.9 more
- Women drinking alcohol exercised 7.2 more minutes per week than abstainers,
and men 5.5 more minutes.
- Drinking for both men and women was associated with about a 10% increase in
the probability of engaging in vigorous exercise.
Abstainers were people who had not drunk alcohol in the 30 days prior to
being surveyed. Drinkers were classified as light, moderate, or heavy drinkers
based on the number of alcoholic drinks they had had in the last 30 days:
- Women: 1-14 drinks
- Men: 1-29 drinks
- Women: 15-45 drinks
- Men: 30-75 drinks
- Women: 46 or more drinks
- Men: 76 or more drinks
“The message here is not to use alcohol to improve your exercise” regimen,
French says, adding that health problems associated with heavy drinking
outweigh benefits of more exercise. However, he says the study suggests that
“responsible” drinking may be beneficial.