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Gym-goers drink more

A new US study has found a link between exercise and how much we drink, suggesting one could well follow the other.

David Conroy and his team have found a link between exercise and drinking which could have far reaching consequences.

We’re never far from hearing of a new study linking drinking to our health, for better or worse.

Now it’s been shown that people tend to drink more on the same days they exercise more, according to a new US study published this month in Health Psychology and funded by the National Institute on Ageing.

The study looked at 150 adults aged 19-89 years old and asked them to log their daily alcohol and exercise habits over three separate 21-day periods.

According to the Washington Post, previous studies asked participants to write down their habits over a 30-day period retrospectively from memory or reached the conclusion that people who exercise also drink more.

But this latest study focused on individual day-to-day behaviour and the test group was comprised of “low risk” people, typically those who would have only a couple of drinks every few days.

Speaking to the Washington Post, David Conroy, the study’s lead author and a professor at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, said he felt they were missing a piece of the puzzle: “Something is happening on those days that’s leading people to drink more.”

As to what that “something” might be, Conroy acknowledged multiple factors could be at play from the social aspect of the post workout drink, self-reward following the achievement of exercise or even a loss of willpower following the exertion of a gym session.

The researchers did note that most of the alcohol intake recorded by participants came in the form of beer rather than wine or spirits so it’s possible post workout consumption is simply down to the refreshment element.

What came first, the treadmill or the six-pack?

The causal aspects or the “why” behind the exercise-drinking relationship will, according to Conroy, be the subject of future research and could impact upon the way we promote exercise regimes: “If we’re going to promote physical activity, we would be wise to think about whether there are any unintended consequences that could occur.”

Conroy also highlighted the irregularity of the findings as, typically, healthy behaviours tend to cluster and it’s unusual for for two opposing habits, working out and drinking, to be linked.

For example, Conroy said, people who exercise tend to eat better and not smoke.

The link also remained irrespective of age or the day of the week, leading Conroy to the conclusion that there is a direct link between the two behaviours: “It’s not just that both are peaking at the same time.”

And could it be down to guilt, people exercising because of a bender the night before?

It seems not as the researchers found the link occurred on the same day and, Conroy pointed out: “it seems unlikely that people would knock back a six-pack and then hop on a treadmill.”

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