Drinking alcohol at or above recommended levels has been linked to an increased likelihood of disease and early death. But a new study says that getting regular exercise may offset some of these risks. While low to moderate levels of drinking may provide some health benefits, it has also been shown to raise the risk of certain cancers.

The consequences of heavy drinking are clearer, still: many studies have shown that drinking in higher-than-moderate amounts increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, several types of cancer, and death from all causes.

Exercise, on the other hand, is known to help people stay healthy and live longer. In fact, physical activity and alcohol consumption “may be linked to chronic disease through shared pathways but acting in the opposite directions.”

Heavy drinking is also associated with increased risk of death from all causes. People who work drink and work out less than 150 minutes a week are liable to cancer, and other diseases. For those who moved at least that much, however, those risks are lessened or canceled out. People who are physically active and drink occasionally (not every week) seem to have lower risk for cardiovascular death than those who are complete teetotalers.

Low and irregular alcohol consumption has cardioprotective effects, but these effects need some physical activity to ignite,” says study co-author Emmanuel Stamatakis, PhD, associate professor of exercise, health and physical activity sports sciences at the University of Sydney in Australia.

Given that drinking is so prevalent in society, it doesn’t make sense to recommend abstinence. It’s however, good to limit consumption to moderate levels at most. As long as people remain physically active, consumption within these guidelines would be wise advice. Exercise is such a powerful influence that may even offset some of the damage done by other unhealthy behaviors.


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