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Working out regularly could reverse alcohol's negative effects, suggests a new study.
Most of us know that after a night of drinking, a light workout can help ease a hangover. Now, one study suggests that frequent exercise could actually cancel out drinking's negative health effects.
In a report published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, researchers at the University of Sydney suggest that physical fitness can eliminate the increased risk of cancer and death that usually comes with alcohol consumption. The study's senior author, associate medical school professor Emmanual Stamatakis, suggests that this data could save lives.
Stamatakis and his team collected 36,370 health surveys of people aged 40 and older from across England and Scotland and compiled them into three groups according to physical activity levels. The researchers then noted how much alcohol each person consumed and kept tabs on the health of the participants for the next 10 years.
After a decade, there were 5,735 deaths total across their subject pool. The researchers found that a "hazardous" level of drinking—8-20 drinks for women, 21-49 drinks for men—was linked to a higher risk level of mortality from all causes, compared to a booze-free lifestyle. Even those who drank less than the government's recommended maximum booze level increased their risk of death from cancer.
However, the researchers noticed something interesting among people who strength-trained and got 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity each week. In subjects who drank moderately or less, the increased mortality risk from cancer disappeared. Stamatakis notes, however, that exercise didn't seem to reduce death risk in people who drank large amounts (more 20 drinks per week for women and 28 for men).
The usual caveats apply: This study used self-reported data, which can be unreliable, and the people who exercised might have also been doing other things that could have reduced. Still, Stamatakis hopes the data will encourage drinkers to get active.