Study Finds a Few Workouts a Week Can Cancel Out Alcohol

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Attention fellow drinkers: It’s time to stop putting off your workout.

We know how painful it can be to get yourself to hit the gym or go for a run. But trust us—your inner cocktail enthusiast will thank you for doing it.

New research from the British Journal of Sports Science suggests that spending 150 minutes a week exercising can actually significantly reduce or erase the negative health benefits associated with too much drinking. In the study, more than 36,000 people participated in six different health surveys spanning a period of four years. In these surveys, participants were asked questions about both their drinking habits and activity levels.

Current health guidelines suggest that both men and women drink less than 14 units of booze per week, which works out to about seven regular-size glasses of beer or wine. For those who indulge beyond this recommended limit—and, let’s be honest, we’re all occasionally guilty—exercise may just be the saving grace.

Drinking more than the recommended amount has been shown to lead to heightened risks of cancer, heart disease and stroke. But we’re delighted to hear that the new research argues that simply two-and-a-half hours of moderate exercise per week can help reduce these negative side effects and even lower cancer risk by 36 percent. When doubled to five hours of exercise a week, the negative effects of too much drinking were canceled out completely.

Although the relationship between health benefits and exercise is merely based on observational data, there’s still some serious science to back it up. The researchers believe that exercise and alcohol consumption share a similar metabolic pathway within the human body but operate in reversed directions. Alcohol can prevent the liver from breaking down fatty acids, for example, while exercise burns fat and uses it as fuel.

The results are hopeful, but there are still possible extraneous factors that may have come into play. The data doesn’t indicate if the effects are the same for binge drinkers who consume all their excess alcohol units at a single sitting (oops, Friday night) as for those who drink the same amount of booze spread out over the course of the week. There is also the possibility that those in the study who exercised often may have also had healthier diets or different drinking patterns to start with.

Either way, it might be time to start switching to bars closer to your gym.

Check out other alcohol-related studies below:

 

 

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