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Science and Research

Study Redefines Drinking and Gym Relationship

Research Ties Tendency to Drink Alcohol to Active Days

A new report from Northwestern Medicine is redefining the connection between physical activity and alcohol consumption.  The breakthrough study was the first to use smartphone technology and daily reporting to circumvent many of the self-reporting measurement problems suffered by previous studies and discovered a discrepancy with past conclusions.

Prior research based on people self-reporting behavior over the previous 30 days suggested that physically active people tend to drink more alcohol. By asking participants to report one day at a time, the Northwestern Medicine study found instead that people are more likely to drink on days they are physically active.

The study discovered that the 150 participants, aged 18 to 89, both consumed more alcohol and exercised more frequently Thursday through Sunday. The lead author of the study, David E. Conroy, PhD, at Northwestern Medicine, concluded that people cut back on alcohol consumption during the week before increasing on days they’re also most active. This tendency to drink more on active days appeared uniform across the study at all levels of physical activity and age.

With this insight in hand, the next step for scientists is to explore how to maximize physical activity effectively without the adverse effects of drinking more alcohol. Conroy hopes to discover why people drink more when they exercise, positing that drinking may function as a reward for working out or physical activity could lead to social situations where drinking is involved.