Look out, Homer Simpson—all that beer drinking may actually be healthy for you. Well, almost: Two studies suggest alcohol consumption may correspond to better fitness habits.
It’s every parent’s admonition to their college-aged children that alcohol will rot their brains, jeopardize health and career goals, especially for young athletes. But that may not actually be the case at all, and our fitness disciplines may actually make us crave alcohol more--and not in a bad way, the studies found.
Researchers out of Pennsylvania State University looked at the relationship between exercise and alcohol consumption in college students. Their findings were published in the journal Health Psychology. According to their research, the more people worked out, the more alcohol they drank on that same day.
The correlation did not show that moderate or even excessive exercise led to more frequent alcohol consumption or abuse. And it could not determine why there was a correlation in the first place. But it did seem to be pretty tried and true across the board.
“This relationship held true throughout all seasons of the year and whether someone was a man or a woman, a collegian or a retiree,” reports the New York Times. “Age and gender did not affect the results.”
The other study, published in the journal Frontiers in Psychiatry, points toward a strong connection between parts of the brain related to rewards, and both the consumption of alcohol and exercise habits.
Both alcohol and exercise can leave people feeling high—which is why one might lead to the other, the researchers surmised. In other words, many of us are simply looking to keep that barre class or 5-mile-run buzz going as long as possible, so we reach for a beer or glass of wine (or more) in that same day to extend that feeling.
There are likely other corresponding circumstances, too, noted the researchers. “Many people, for instance, exercise in large part to burn the calories associated with drinking, meaning that, for them, drinking drives exercise behavior,” explains the Times.
“Social bonding also plays an outsize role in the two activities for many of us….The camaraderie created on the practice field or among workout partners can nudge exercisers to reconvene convivially at the local bar, and those gatherings may motivate reluctant exercisers to stick with their routines, because they feel rewarded afterward.”
This isn't the first data to point to alcohol consumption corresponding to improved health. Some alcohol--wine, certain beers, and even whiskey--host a number of health benefits including free-radical fighting antioxidants, and general immune boosting.
So while the reasons exercise and alcohol are so connected aren’t totally clear cut, the new research does point to a behavior that's been with is for thousands of years— one, that for most of us, isn’t likely to be problematic. Of course, alcohol and exercise addictions are real problems for a number of people. But for most, feeling an urge to have a drink after an intense run, may just be in our nature after all--and a healthy urge at that. Those donuts Homer Simpson loves as much as his beer? Not so much.
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