Exercise can offset the increased cancer risk that comes from drinking booze
A new study has revealed that exercise “cancels out” the higher risk of cancer death brought about by alcohol consumption, and lessens the greater risk of death resulting from any cause due to alcohol.
Senior author of the study Dr. Emmanuel Stamatakis believes that with its “very high standing” in Western culture, “alcohol will continue to be abused despite the damage it causes to the health of individuals and society in general.”
With this in mind, Stamatakis, an associate professor at the University of Sydney’s medical school, set out to see whether the harmful effects of drinking could be offset by the benefits of exercise.
Stamatakis and his team gathered data from health surveys conducted in England and Scotland, and then grouped the study participants – 36,370 people, all 40 years of age or older – into three categories: people who are not very active, those who do a moderate amount of exercising, and those who do the most.
The researchers then looked at alcohol use among the participants.
They found that drinking at hazardous levels was linked to a heightened risk of death from all causes. They defined hazardous drinking as 8 to 20 US standard drinks for women and 21 to 49 for men per week.
The more alcohol units drunk each week, the greater the risk of death from cancer, even when less than the recommended maximum (8 standard drinks for women: 12 for men weekly) was consumed.
The numbers nevertheless changed dramatically when Stamatakis and his colleagues factored exercise into their equations.
Specifically, they looked at the impact of the recommended amount of weekly exercise for adults, which is 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity, including brisk walking, swimming and mowing the lawn, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services. HHS also advises strength training for all major muscle groups at least twice a week.
The findings of the study showed that exercising the recommended amount “appeared to wipe off completely” the inflated risk of cancer death resulting from alcohol.
Similar physical activity also offset the increased risk of all-cause mortality linked to drinking. Exercising more provided slightly better results.
Exercise nevertheless failed to moderate the death risk among those who drank at harmful levels (over 20 US standard drinks per week for women and over 28 US standard drinks for men).
Stamatakis believes that the study, which was published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, gives “yet another reason” to promote physical activity and make the environment more conducive to physical activity and generally encourage people to sit less.
“How many more reasons do we need for physical activity to be taken seriously?” he asked.