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People Drink More Alcohol on Gym Days, Research

First Posted: Sep 23, 2014 04:12 AM EDT

A new study states that people consume more alcohol on days they exercise more.

In the latest study, researchers at Northwestern Education used smartphone technology as well as daily diary approach to evaluate the self-reporting physical activity and use of alcohol among 150 participants aged between 18 and 89 years. The researchers found that people drink more on gym days, particularly Thursdays through Sundays.

"Monday through Wednesday people batten down the hatches and they cut back on alcohol consumption," said David E. Conroy, lead author of the study. "But once that 'social weekend' kicks off on Thursdays, physical activity increases and so does alcohol consumption. Insufficient physical activity and alcohol use are both linked to many health problems, and excessive alcohol use has many indirect costs as well. We need to figure out how to use physical activity effectively and safely without having the adverse effects of drinking more alcohol."

The researchers recorded the physical activity and alcohol use in smartphones at the end of the day. They recorded the details for 21 days at a time, at three various time throughout a year. This study is different from previous studies as they looked at physical activity and alcohol consumption based on people self-reporting about their behavior over the past 30 days. These studies concluded that those who are physically active tend to drink more alcohol.

"In this study, people only have to remember one day of activity or consumption at time, so they are less vulnerable to memory problems or other biases that come in to play when asked to report the past 30 days of behavior," Conroy said. "We think this is a really good method for getting around some of those self-report measurement problems."

In the current study, they looked at the participants' behavior on a day-to-day basis and noticed that on days people are more active, they drink more as compared to less active days.  This pattern was same across all ages. The team next plans to find out what triggers people to drink more on days they exercise more.

"Perhaps people reward themselves for working out by having more to drink or maybe being physically active leads them to encountering more social situations where alcohol is consumed -- we don't know," Conroy said. "Once we understand the connection between the two variables we can design novel interventions that promote physical activity while curbing alcohol use."

The finding was documented in the American Psychological Association Journal-Health Psychology.

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