The Cooper Institute’s Fit and Tipsy Study Reveals Fit People Drink More Alcohol Than Non-Exercisers


The Cooper Institute’s Fit and Tipsy Study Reveals Fit People Drink More Alcohol Than Non-Exercisers

DALLAS, TX ( SEPTEMBER 30, 2021) –   The Cooper Institute® has published a new research study linking exercise and alcohol habits. This study demonstrates that women and men with higher fitness levels are more likely to consume alcohol. While higher fitness is overwhelmingly linked to better health and longevity, excessive alcohol use could lead to the development of chronic diseases and other serious problems.

This study examined data from approximately 38,000 healthy patients ranging in age from 20 to 86 who underwent preventive testing at the Cooper Clinic and were enrolled in the Cooper Center Longitudinal Study (CCLS). Alcohol intake was assessed by a questionnaire, and their cardiorespiratory fitness was estimated with a treadmill test and based on the results, they were then classified as low, moderate, or high fit according to their age and sex. For alcohol consumption, those consuming three or fewer drinks per week were considered light drinkers; up to seven for women and 14 for men was moderate; and above that was heavy for patients aged 18-64 years.

Study results showed that adults (aged 46 years, on average) who engage in physical activity and reach moderate and high fitness levels also tend to drink more alcohol. The study demonstrated that women with moderate and high fitness levels were 1.6 and 2.1 times (respectively) more likely to consume moderate/heavy amounts of alcohol. Similarly, men with moderate and high fitness were 1.4 and 1.6 times more likely to drink moderate/heavy alcohol. In addition, among men who were heavy drinkers, higher fitness levels were related to lower rates of suggested alcohol dependence, a finding that warrants further examination.  

“More than 80% of the population in the US visit health care providers annually. This is an important opportunity to discuss healthy lifestyle behaviors such as being physically active, healthy eating, drinking in moderation, and not smoking” says Kerem Shuval, PhD, MPH, Director of Epidemiology for The Cooper Institute. There appears to be a connection between various health behaviors that is not always straightforward; all relevant health behaviors should be addressed during their patient-doctor encounter.”

While regularly engaging in physical activity and being physically fit leads to numerous health benefits, drinking alcohol in excess is related to deleterious health effects. This apparent contradiction between engaging in a healthy behavior such as physical activity, on the one hand, and partaking in an unhealthy behavior (drinking in excess), on the other, could potentially be explained by a psychological phenomenon called the licensing effect, in which individuals allow themselves to indulge after doing something virtuous.

Article: Shuval K, Leonard D, Chartier K, Barlow CE, Fennis BM, Katz DL, Abel K, Farrell SW, Pavlovic A, DeFina LF. Fit and Tipsy? The Interrelationship between Cardiorespiratory Fitness and Alcohol Consumption and Dependence. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2021 Aug 24. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000002777. Online ahead of print.


September 30, 2021