Gyms Have More Alcoholics Than Bars

Julie Ryan Evans

martiniThe gym can be a rather sanctimonious place. It's often filled largely with people who eschew eating anything bad for their bodies, put health first, and embody everything that's wholesome and good in life. Well, except for one little matter: Many of them drink like fish! Yes, some of the same people who make some of us feel guilty with their seemingly pure lives have a guilty secret of their own that seems about as contradictory as a pro-choice Catholic.

Two recent studies highlighted in The New York Times found a correlation between people who drink alcohol a lot and people who exercise a lot. In the first study, rats who had an "inbred taste for alcohol" were given an unlimited supply of alcohol. Those who had exercised on running wheels drank significantly more than the rats who didn't exercise, surprising even researchers.

The second study was based on actual people -- hundreds of thousands who were interviewed via telephone. It found drinking alcohol "is associated with a 10.1 percentage point increase in the probability of exercising vigorously.” It also stated that “heavy drinkers exercise about 10 more minutes per week than current moderate drinkers and about 20 more minutes per week than current abstainers.”

So why would people who make one healthy choice for their bodies make such an unhealthy one when it comes to booze? Some think it could have do with being a thrill seeker with a work-hard-play-hard mentality, or that some forms of group exercise spark social events, or perhaps people exercise more so they can drink and burn off the calories.

But for whatever reason, it seems to be true given conversations heard around the gym and from my friends who drink as hard as they run (and my friend list is heavy with marathoners and endurance athletes). In fact, in several of the cities I've lived in, my gym has had its own bar.

The good news is that exercising may protect people from some of the negative effects of drinking too much. A third study showed that when binge drinking, exercise seemed to protect some brain cells from being lost. So there's something to raise a glass to, and if you need someone with whom to clink your glass, then hit your gym -- it may be the best place to find a drinking buddy.

Are you surprised to find a correlation between love of exercise and love of alcohol?

Image via bark/Flickr

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