Health & Wellness

Reward for sweating? We drink more alcohol when we exercise

On the weekends people hit the gym hard, working out more on those days than during the week. It’s also when they hit the bottle harder, too. A new study finds people drink more alcohol on days when they work out more.

Today
I did 20 squats today. Let's toast!

Researchers asked 150 people, between ages 18 to 89, to record their physical activity and alcohol use in a Smartphone app each day for a 21-day period. They did this three times, giving researchers data from a total of 63 days. The researchers learned people—from the most physically active to the least—drank more alcohol more on days they exercised more.

“I was surprised that there was no different between more and less active people,” said David Conroy, professor of preventive medicine and deputy director of the Center for Behavior and Health at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and an author of the study published this week in “Health Psychology.”

A 2009 survey found people who drink alcohol are more physically active. The new study focused on the other way around — we drink more when we exercise. It didn't go into why exercise is linked to alcohol consumption, or how much we're boozing when we work out. But Conroy speculates that people might be rewarding themselves for a good workout by having a few drinks. Or, they might have depleted their willpower at the gym and they’re less able to say "no" to a cocktail.  

“It is interesting … we tend to exercise more Thursday through Sunday and we tend to drink more Thursday through Sunday,” says Dr. David Geier, an orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine expert in Charleston, South Carolina, who was not involved in the study. “Just be careful not to conclude that one leads to another.”

Another factor from the study: we're weekend warriors when it comes to exercising and drinking.

“The social weekend is alive and well. We’ve seen in college students that drinking goes up, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday,” Conroy says. “Whether you are a young adult, a midlife adult, or an older adult, these effects hold up.” 

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