There is a surprising amount of literature on the relationship between exercise and alcohol. It is the classic conundrum: exercise is a sign of responsibility and health, whereas alcohol is associated with fun and recklessness. We can hardly imagine that inebriated gentleman, slumped against the bar at a Dirty Martini’s Tuesday afternoon happy hour, completing 20 reps on the leg press machine.
On the other hand, a beer with lunch might be viewed in the same manner as ordering dessert with dinner. Any individual, no matter how health-conscious, can understand the allure of a raspberry pavlova. The next morning, he or she will pay the price on the cross-trainer, aware that extra calories warrant an extra sprint. Alcohol, therefore, may prompt an extended exercise session in the name of fitness.
Several studies support this mindset. In the US, female drinkers exercise 7.2 more minutes per week than abstainers. That particular study concludes that ‘drinking is associated with a 10.1 percentage point increase in the probability of exercising vigorously.’ While alcohol consumption might not be the motivating factor to exercise, these results do suggest a positive correlation between drinking and exercising. In layman’s terms, a health-aware individual might recognise the negative effects of alcohol and seek to offset these in the gym.
They would not be entirely wrong in doing so. The NHS addressed a study that uncovered a similar positive correlation between alcohol consumption and exercise. To summarise, higher levels of physical activity appeared to mitigate the common risks associated with alcohol. To summarise that summary, exercise might help fix some of the things that booze breaks.
Another study concluded that “people who were physically active and drank occasionally (not every week) seemed to have lower risk for cardiovascular death than those who were complete teetotalers.” Once again, gyming saves the day. In this case, it might even complement alcohol usage.
90% of alcohol is processed through the liver. During heavy drinking sessions, this can result in a severely overworked organ. Intoxication occurs when the liver is unable to process alcohol quickly enough. Consequently, the excess alcohol begins to circulate through the bloodstream.
Exercise, conversely, spurs the body to complete its natural processes and uses fat as fuel. It specifically improves the liver function by strengthening the heart, which in turn improves the liver’s ability to send filtered blood back through the blood system.
When these forces collide, exercise tends to win. Never underestimate the importance of those 30 minutes of elevated heart rate a day. (Hopefully, you’ve now been reminded of your unused gym membership.)