Worked hard at the gym today? Chances are you will treat yourself to a drink or two, according to a new study. Researchers from Northwestern University in Evanston, IL, found that that on days when exercise increases, so does alcohol consumption.
The research team, led by David E. Conroy of the Feinburg School of Medicine at Northwestern, publish their findings in the journal Health Psychology.
They reached their findings by analyzing the physical activity and alcohol consumption of 150 participants aged 18-89.
Throughout three separate periods of 21 days, participants were asked to input their levels of physical activity and alcohol consumption into their smartphone at the end of each day.
Conroy notes that previous studies have relied on participants self-reporting their exercise and alcohol behaviors over the past 30 days.
“In this study, people only have to remember one day of activity or consumption at a time, so they are less vulnerable to memory problems or other biases that come in to play when asked to report the past 30 days of behavior,” he says. “We think this is a really good method for getting around some of those self-report measurement problems.”
The investigators note that past research claims people who engage in high levels of physical activity are more likely to have higher alcohol consumption.
However, using the daily self-reporting method, the team found that people are more likely to consume alcohol on the days they engage in higher levels of physical activity, which tends to be Thursday to Sunday.
“Monday through Wednesday people batten down the hatches and they cut back on alcohol consumption,” explains Conroy. “But once that ‘social weekend’ kicks off on Thursdays, physical activity increases and so does alcohol consumption.”
He adds that these results are of concern, as lack of physical activity and alcohol consumption are both associated with increased risk of health problems. He adds:
“We need to figure out how to use physical activity effectively and safely without having the adverse effects of drinking more alcohol.”
The researchers admit that from this study, they are unable to determine what causes people to drink more alcohol on the days they are more active, but that this is something they hope to find out with future research.
However, Conroy says it is possible that people drink alcohol to reward themselves for working out, or physical activity may encourage engagement in social environments that involve drinking.
“Once we understand the connection between the two variables, we can design novel interventions that promote physical activity while curbing alcohol use,” he adds.
Last year, Medical News Today reported on a study claiming exercise can prevent and reverse brain damage caused by excess alcohol intake.