Drinking may prolong your life – but only if paired with exercise

drinking and exercise

Overdrinking can lead to numerous health complications, including liver damage, heart disease, increased risk of certain types of cancer, and cognitive impairments. It can also lead to addiction, mental health issues, and risky behaviors.

However, an observational study in 2006 uncovered evidence suggesting that regular physical activity can actually mitigate many of the health risks associated with alcohol consumption and potentially even extend a person’s lifespan.

Researchers analyzed the lifestyle habits and health records of thousands of participants over a decade and their findings suggest that people that maintain a consistent exercise routine, even with moderate drinking habits exhibit fewer health complications typically associated with alcohol consumption, such as liver disease, cancer and heart conditions. This counteractive effect of exercise not only suggests a new perspective on the health implications of drinking alcohol,  but also reaffirms the essential role physical activity plays in overall health and longevity.

The study led by Dr. Emmanuel Stamatakis of Sydney University, and published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine,  explored whether the detrimental effects of alcohol could be counterbalanced by the benefits of exercise.

Using health data from England and Scotland on 36,370 people, all aged 40 or over, researchers divided participants into three groups based on their physical activity levels (inactive, moderately active, and highly active). The team then examined the alcohol consumption patterns among each group.

After monitoring the groups for a decade, the study witnessed a total of 5,735 deaths and found (unsurprisingly) that hazardous drinking (defined as 8 to 20 standard drinks for women and 21 to 49 for men per week) was associated with an increased risk of early death. However, the study took a surprising turn when exercise was introduced into the calculations (150 minutes per week of moderate aerobic activity like brisk walking, swimming, or even just lawn mowing). 

Participants that drank moderate amounts of alcohol but exercised regularly, were able to completely neutralize the heightened death risk associated with their drinking habits – along with other mortality risks related to drinking. 

The conclusion at the end of the study was that occasional drinking was actually linked to a lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease, and other chronic illnesses (like cancer and liver disease) among physically active people. 

This study provides us with another great reason to partake in regular physical activity, and abstain from excessive drinking: a longer, healthier life!

Read more about the intricate relationship between alcohol consumption, exercise, and lifespan on our most recent post.