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We Drink More Alcohol on Gym Days

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People typically head for the gym when the weekend hits. You can see more people sweating it off in the gym from Thursdays to Sundays. A new Northwestern Medicine research finds that these are also the days when people drink more alcohol.


It is interesting to note that this is the only study that uses smart phone technology. A daily dairy approach for self-reporting physical activity and alcohol intake has been also used in the study. This study was published on the web in Health Psychology which is an American Psychological Association journal.


People slog hard at work from Monday through Wednesday and their alcohol intake is relatively lower. By the time it is Thursday people need to let loose and unwind, so they resort to exercising and ironically, drinking alcohol too. David E. Conroy, the lead author of the study noted that the increase in physical activity and alcohol consumption goes hand in hand once the social weekend kicks off on Thursdays. Conroy is a professor of preventive medicine and deputy director of the Center for Behavior and Health at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. At the Methodology Center at The Pennsylvania State University, where the research was conducted, he is a faculty affiliate.


Conroy said that we are all aware of the health problems that can be caused due to inadequate physical activity. Excessive drinking can also result is several health problems. He further said that what we need to figure out is how to use physical exercising effectively, without having to suffer from the undesirable adverse effects of consuming excessive alcohol.


For this study data from one hundred and fifty participants were collected. These participants were between the ages of 18 to 89. They recorded their physical activity and alcohol consumption in their smartphones at the end of the day. The data was recorded for 21 days at a time. In a year, such data was collected at 3 different times.


Previous such studies on physical activity and alcohol took into account the data self-reported by participants over past 30 days. Conroy said that the technique of collecting the data in the previous studies is flawed, as people are vulnerable to memory problems and other biases when it comes to reporting past 30 days of behavior. In this study, people need to remember only one day of activity or alcohol consumption. So, it is likely that the data received will be more accurate. The previous studies, which relied on 30-day self-reporting and concluded that physically active people tend to drink more alcohol. However, this study did not arrive at the same conclusion.


Conroy said that they have tried to be as objective as possible. They got a very up-close and personal look at such behaviors on a day-to-day basis and have come to the conclusion that 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. Another important finding of the study was that the observation was uniform across study participants of all levels of physical activity and ages.


Further research to find out what drives people to drink more on the days they exercise more is needed. Such studies are being carried out at the Center for Behavior and Health at Feinberg. It may be that people reward themselves for working out by having a drink or more. It is also possible that physically active people find themselves in social situations where alcohol is consumed. Conroy remarked that once the connection between the two variables is understood, novel ways of promoting physical exercise while limited the use of alcohol can be promoted.

The National Institute on Aging grant AG035645 and the National Institute on Drug Abuse grant P50 DA010075 funded this study.