Page last updated: January 10, 2017
Does physical activity moderate the association between alcohol drinking and all-cause, cancer and cardiovascular diseases mortality

A study led by Karine Perreault, of the School of Public Health of the Université de Montréal has found that drinkers who exercise for at least 150 minutes a week reduce their chances of dying due to any alcoholrelated illnesses.

The study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine analysed data from eight nationally representative health surveys carried out in the United Kingdom from 1994 to 2006: Health Survey for England (1994, 1998, 1999, 2003, 2004 and 2006) and Scottish Health Survey (1998 and 2003). 36,370 men and women aged 40 years and over were included with a corresponding 5,735 deaths and a mean of 353,049 person-years of follow-up. Drinking levels were defined as: Never drinkers, Ex-drinkers, Moderate drinkers = up to 17 standard drinks (10g) per week for men, up to 11 for women, Hazardous drinkers = between 17-39 standard drinks per week for men and between 11-29 for women and Harmful drinkers = over 39 standard drinks per week for men, and over 28 standard drinks per week for women. Almost a quarter of respondents said they did no physical activity, and about 40% did a moderate amount of exercise. Less than a quarter met the higher, vigorous target.

The impact of alcohol consumption on risk of dying from cancer (physically active and inactive participants combined) for moderate drinkers was an increase of 38%, for hazardous drinkers was 40% and for harmful drinkers were 74%.

The research found a direct association between alcohol consumption and cancer mortality risk starting from drinking within guidelines (HR (95% CI) hazardous drinking: 1.40 (1.11 to 1.78)). Compared with never having been a drinker, drinking an average of 2.4 standard drinks per day for men and 1.6 drinks per day for women) was associated with a 36% greater risk of death from cancer as well as a 13% greater risk of death from any cause. But this risk was substantially lessened or offset among those who were physically active at the basic recommended level (equivalent to at least 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity activity such as brisk walking) or at the upper recommended level (equivalent to at least 300 minutes of moderate intensity activity per week). In the physically active groups, only harmful levels of drinking were associated with increased risk of cancer death and death from any cause. However, the study didn’t assess drinking patterns such as binge drinking or dietary factors that could influence the findings further.

Source: Exercise can offset the risks associated with alcohol intake. K Perreault, A Bauman, N Johnson, A Britton, V Rangul, E Stamatakis, Nursing Standard. 31, 5, 16-16.

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