Is Physical Inertia Linked With Higher Risk Of Alcoholism?

By McCarton Ackerman 11/16/15

If you don't really work out, you may be at higher risk to abuse alcohol.

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Anyone looking for a reason to exercise need look no further than a new study which shows that those who live a sedentary lifestyle are twice as likely to abuse alcohol.

The findings, released by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, came from a survey of 5,002 African-American men and women collected for the National Survey of American Life (NSAL) from 2001-03. Researchers found that those who either infrequently, or never worked out, were 84-88% more likely to meet two different criteria for alcohol abuse than those who exercised regularly.

But while the findings linked physical inactivity with alcohol abuse, the researchers couldn’t cite a direct cause between the two. The study also cited previous studies which linked physical activity to a reduction in anxiety and depression disorders, but again couldn’t pinpoint an exact correlation between them.

"Because the NSAL study was essentially a snapshot that was taken at one point in time, we can't say that engaging in physical activity will prevent people from developing alcohol use disorder or that alcohol use disorder can be treated with physical activity," said study author April Joy Damian, a doctoral student at the Bloomberg School. "Given that alcohol use disorder has a high rate of co-occurrence for depression and anxiety, it merits further study all around, for African-Americans as well as others.”

However, other studies have reported opposite findings to what the Johns Hopkins researchers reported. Scientists from Northwestern University reported last year that physically active people were likely to drink more on the days they worked out and less on the days they didn’t. A separate study from Czech Republic found that people who exercised regularly enjoyed increased benefits from consuming wine, including improved cholesterol levels.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.