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Strange as it may seem, fitter people tend to drink more.
The latest study to confirm this comes from the Cooper Institute in Dallas, Texas. The researchers looked at data from 38,000 healthy patients aged between 20 and 86. The patients were divided into five fitness categories, adjusted for sex and age, based on a run-to-exhaustion test on a treadmill. The least fit group was classified as ‘low fitness’, the next two ‘moderate fitness’, and the highest two ‘high fitness’.
Alcohol consumption, meanwhile, was divided into three groups: light (three or fewer drinks per week), moderate (up to seven for women, 14 for men) and heavy (8+ for women, 15+ for men).
The result? The moderate and highly fit people were significantly more likely to be moderate or heavy drinkers. Highly fit men were 63% more likely to be moderate or heavy drinkers; for women, being highly fit more than doubled the chances of being a moderate or heavy drinker.
Why might this be? The study authors suggest it may be caused by the licensing effect – namely, the idea that when you’ve done something “good” (a run), you’re more inclined to feel entitled to reward yourself with something “bad” (a drink). Another possible explanation might be the addictive personalities of some people who exercise frequently.
The study researchers also had the participants answer an alcohol-dependency questionnaire. Based on their answers to things such as whether they felt guilty about their drinking, had tried to reduce it, or drank first thing in the morning, 13 per cent of the subjects fulfilled the criteria for alcohol dependency. However, among the heavy-drinking men (but not women), the fittest were the least likely to show signs of being alcohol dependent.
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