People who are very fit, healthy and active are more likely to be heavy drinkers because they feel their exercise habits entitle them to an alcoholic reward, a study suggests.
Almost 40,000 people aged between 20 and 86 enrolled in a long-running study were analysed by a team of scientists at The Cooper Institute in Dallas.
The average age was 46, but participants ranged from 20 to 86, and each person did a treadmill to examine their cardiorespiratory fitness.
Participants were divided into three groups, those with low, moderate and high fitness, based on where they ranked in the cohort. Those in the top 40 per cent were deemed very fit, those in the bottom quintile were unfit, and those in the middle were of middling health.
Questionnaires were also used to assess how much alcohol a person consumes a week. A bottle of beer, a glass of wine, or a double shot of spirits were deemed to be one drink.
A light drinker consumed less than three drinks a week; a moderate male drinker was between three and 14, while moderate consumption for a woman was between three and seven glasses; and high consumption was more than 14 for men, or more than seven for women.
Analysis of the data from The Cooper Institute academics, published in the journal of Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, revealed women with moderate fitness levels were 58 per cent more likely to drink heavily than the most unfit people.
A moderately fit man was found to be 42 per cent more likely to be a big guzzler.
But the researchers also found that the most fit women who performed best in the treadmill test were more than twice as likely as the most unfit to report being a heavy drinker.
The fittest men, however, were found to be 63 per cent more likely to be a big drinker than the most unfit males.
The academics suggest that the correlation between alcohol intake and running ability might be due to the fact people who are exercising regularly are more inclined to give themselves a reward. However, it may also be down to the fittest people also having addictive personalities and exercise and drinking may both be symptoms of the same core personality trait.
“This is an important opportunity to discuss healthy lifestyle behaviors such as being physically active, healthy eating, drinking in moderation, and not smoking,” says Dr Kerem Shuval Director of Epidemiology for The Cooper Institute and study author.
“There appears to be a connection between various health behaviours that is not always straightforward; all relevant health behaviors should be addressed during their patient-doctor encounter.”