How exercise undoes the harm from drinking – Professor Matt Field

Adults who booze regularly but exercise for five hours a week are no more likely to die than teetotallers
  • Exercise can reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease in drinkers
  • An hour’s exercise a day can counter the harmful processes from alcohol 
  • Researchers have found there are enormous health benefits with exercise
  • Those who drink and do not exercise are at greater risk of an early death 

Regular exercise offsets the harms of alcohol including cancer and heart disease, research shows.

It found that adults who drink regularly but do an hour’s physical activity a day are no more likely to die than teetotallers.

Experts say exercise counteracts many of the harmful processes which occur in the body after drinking alcohol.

These include inflammation of the cells and a rise in certain hormone levels, which trigger cancer and other illnesses

The findings by University College London and the University of Sydney researchers are further evidence of the enormous health benefits of exercise.

Earlier this Summer a major international study found that an hour’s exercise a day offset the harms of a nine to five office live.

Today’s research, in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, examined data from 36,370 adults in England and Scotland.

They had all taken part in the Government’s annual health survey which asks questions on weekly alcohol consumption and exercise from 1994 to 2006.

Around 85 per cent drank occasionally or often and this included 13 per cent who exceeded the recommended safe limit of 14 units a week.

But those who did at least two and a half hour and a half’s moderate exercise a week drastically reduced the harms of drinking.

And adults who managed five hours exercise a week – and exceed the safe drinking levels – were no more likely to die than teetotallers.

The study concluded: ‘Meeting the current physical activity public health recommendations (two and a half hours) offsets some of the cancer and all-cause mortality risk associated with alcohol drinking.

‘Our results provide an additional argument for the role of physical activity as a means to promote the health of the population even in the presence of other less healthy behaviours.

Professor Matt Field, from the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies at the University of Liverpool said: ‘This is a rigorous piece of research with some clear conclusions.

‘The relationship between drinking alcohol to excess and increased risk of death is significantly weaker in people who are physically active.’

‘Therefore, it appears that physical activity may partially offset some of the harmful effects of drinking, particularly alcohol-attributable cancers.

But Professor Kevin McConway, an expert in statistics at the The Open University, said adults should not just assume they could drink as much as they wanted as long as they exercised.

He added that ‘no firm conclusions’ could be drawn from the study and some of the findings may be down to chance or other factors aside from exercise.


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