Researchers from Northwestern University found that people are the most active between Thursday and Sunday. They also drink the most during these days. Subsequently, the more people exercise, the more they drink. The findings were published in the journal Health Psychology.
Social days’ effects vs. working days
“Monday through Wednesday people batten down the hatches and they cut back on alcohol consumption,” said lead study author and Northwestern professor David Conroy. “But once that ‘social weekend’ kicks off on Thursdays, physical activity increases and so does alcohol consumption.”
Finding a happy medium
Small amounts of physical activity and drinking alcohol are linked to several health issues. However, significant amounts of activity coupled with excessive alcohol consumption is also detrimental to health.
“We need to figure out how to use physical activity effectively and safely without having the adverse effects of drinking more alcohol,” Conroy stated.
Taking it day by day
The study included 150 participants who ranged between ages 18 and 89. The participants recorded their activity levels for 21 days in a row at three different times throughout the year. The researchers asked each participant to report his or her own daily activity using a diary and a smartphone.
This is not the first study to find a positive correlation between physical activity and alcohol consumption. One 2012 study found that heavy drinkers exercise 10 minutes more per week than moderate drinkers.
The strong presence of binge drinking
Binge drinking is a nationwide problem. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated that 1 in 6 U.S. adults binge drink about four times a month, drinking about eight drinks each time. Binge drinking is a dangerous habit that can lead to substance abuse and addiction.
However, previous studies on activity and alcohol consumption only asked participants to record their activity and drinking levels once in the past 30 days, unlike this study.
Conroy noted that his study’s method was better. Self-reporting can sometimes carry biases and memory problems if done the wrong way. Instead of participants potentially forgetting some of the days they were active or drank, they can record it a day at a time, Conroy stated.
These past studies stated that physically active people drank more alcohol, which this study did not find.
Avoiding generalizations and taking a closer look
The researchers stated their day-to-day approach helped them get an up-close look at the behavior of participants. They realized drinking levels do not have to do with whether a person is physically active overall. People drink on the days that they are more active and drink less on the days they are not active. Conroy hopes that he and his colleagues can discover what causes people to drink more on days they exercise.
“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.”