Exercise May Lessen Some of the Bad Effects of Alcohol

A study hints that exercise may offset some of the negative health effects of drinking.

Drinking in moderation isn’t necessarily a bad thing; some research, especially in the area of heart disease, suggests that alcohol may even provide some benefits.

But most studies on alcohol and health outcomes—like death from heart disease or cancer— have looked at drinking in isolation from other lifestyle factors. That’s a pretty artificial scenario, since a person’s drinking habits often go along with other lifestyle behaviors, such as diet, exercise and whether they smoke. Few studies have looked at how alcohol works in more real-world situations: how drinking affects people who exercise compared to those who aren’t as physically active, for example.

Not surprisingly, they found that drinking itself is linked to higher rates of early death from any cause, as well as death from cancer. And the more alcohol is consumed, the higher the risk of early death. But when Stamatakis layered in the amount of exercise people reported, he found that only those who weren’t physically active—meaning they did not meet the recommended 150 minutes of moderate-to-intense exercise a week—showed similar patterns of higher mortality.

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