A new study from Northwestern University that is making use of all of those new-fangled fitness applications and wearables has revealed an athletic truism that I would have bet money on based on anecdotal evidence—people drink more on days that they exercise.
I know I, for one, do this on a regular basis.
There’s two reasons for this. First, after an hour-long, tough workout, I usually feel I can spare the calories and indulge in an extra Founders Breakfast Stout. Rather than seeing the workout as an accomplishment toward my health, I take the typical American route and use it as an excuse to completely erase the good I just did.
The second reason is simply a matter of convenience. People tend to work out more toward the end of the week and on the weekends. Why is that, you might ask? In my experience, it’s because they have more time on their hands, particularly on Saturday and Sunday. More free time equals more exercise time.
But it also means more time to drink.
In the study, researchers asked 150 study participants ranging in age from 18 to some bad-ass 89-year-olds to record their physical activity and alcohol consumption daily on their smartphones for 21 days. They did this at three different times during the year. Not only did this allow participants to take a break and hopefully take better care of their recordings during their three-week intervals, it also helped account for seasonal variations in exercise and alcohol consumption.
Let’s face it, if the study were done entirely during football season, the results would probably be pretty skewed.
“In this study, people only have to remember one day of activity or consumption at time, so they are less vulnerable to memory problems (outside of blackouts*) or other biases that come in to play when asked to report the past 30 days of behavior,” said David Conroy, lead author and a professor of preventive medicine and deputy director of the Center for Behavior and Health at Northwestern University. “We think this is a really good method for getting around some of those self-report measurement problems.
“We zoomed in the microscope and got a very up-close and personal look at these behaviors on a day-to-day basis and see it’s not people who exercise more drink more — it’s that on days when people are more active they tend to drink more than on days they are less active,” Conroy continued. “This finding was uniform across study participants of all levels of physical activity and ages.”
It’s a vicious cycle. Button down the hatches Monday – Thursday, eat well, drink less, and try to undo all the drinking damage that Friday – Sunday brought. It sounds like I’m not alone.
The study, “Daily Physical Activity and Alcohol Use Across the Adult Lifespan,” was published in Health Psychology by Conroy and Northwestern colleagues Nilam Ram, Aaron L. Pincus, Donna L. Coffman, Amy E. Lorek, Amanda L. Rebar and Michael J. Roche of The Pennsylvania State University.
*comment added by me, not originally quoted from Northwestern