Does exercising make you drink more alcohol?

on 16/01/11 at 10:22 pm

Booze News

Can regular exercise avert or undo some of the harm associated with binge drinking?

Perhaps even better, could exercising beforehand pre-emptively reduce your urge to overindulge in alcohol later?

Or does exercising actually drive you to drink?

Those questions, relevant to any of us whose memories of New Year’s Eve are fuzzy, have been the subject of a growing number of studies recently, with thought-provoking results.

One of the more telling new studies examined the issue of whether being fit and exercising reduces the urge to drink.

For the experiment, researchers used adult male rats with an inbred taste for alcohol.

Half the rats were given access to running wheels for three weeks. The others were kept in cages without wheels.

After three weeks, the running wheels were removed, and half of the animals from each group were allowed unlimited access to alcohol for 21 days.

Earlier studies by other researchers found that animals given equal access to exercise and alcohol — they were allowed to sip booze while on a running wheel — chose to drink less than animals not exercising.

Based on those results, “we had anticipated that exercise would reduce” the rats’ drive to drink, said J. Leigh Leasure, an associate professor in the department of psychology at the University of Houston and senior author of the study, which was presented in November at the 2010 annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in San Diego.

Instead, the exercising animals turned to alcohol with significantly more enthusiasm than the sedentary rats, mainly during the first week of the experiment.

“It was a bit of a surprise,” Dr Leasure said.

But the findings are right in line with those from a recent, large-scale national survey of human subjects published in The American Journal of Health Promotion.

Bluntly titled, “Do Alcohol Consumers Exercise More?” it answers its own query with a resounding, if counterintuitive, yes.

In fact, the data show, the more people drink, the more they exercise.

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