New research has suggested that if you’re prone to relaxing with a beer or two over the weekend, you have even more reason to make sure you don’t miss that early morning ride. According to a study published this month in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, exercising for around two-and-a-half hours a week could help minimise the impact of alcohol on your health.
Researchers are by no means giving people the go-ahead to drink willy-nilly, but the findings of a large-scale study that tracked 36,370 people are interesting. Alcohol consumption has been linked to higher rates of death as well as higher rates of death from cancer – 20% and 52% respectively. However, participants who managed to fit in just two and a half hours of exercise a week saw significant reductions in risk of death and cancer.
Alcohol increases inflammation in the body and decreases immune function, both of which have been linked to cancer. Exercise, on the other hand, decreases inflammation and increases immune function – leading researchers to examine the possibility that the detrimental effects of alcohol may be ‘cancelled out’ by the beneficial effects of exercise. The exception to the findings was for heavy drinkers – women who consumed more than 20 drinks a week and men who consumed more than 28 drinks a week. For these participants, exercise did not lower the risk of dying, researchers found.
But there’s good news! Another interesting finding of the study was that that there was a slightly beneficial effect to having an occasional drink: regardless of physical activity level, occasional drinkers were slightly less likely die from any cause, or from heart disease in particular, compared with other groups of drinkers.