We all know the health benefits of exercise. And I’m sure you’ve heard about the heart-healthy antioxidants that red wine provides. But a study published on January 9, 2008 in the European Heart Journal suggests ways to help you live longer. Not so surprising, the first is exercise. The other may just be unexpected – drinking alcohol! Here’s the catch: both activities must be done in order to gain the life-extending benefits.
The advantages come in the form of lower risk of heart disease and other complications. In fact, even people who do not drink at all have a 49% higher risk of heart disease if they do not exercise.
But just what is “moderate” drinking? Researchers say that up to two drinks per day on a regular basis can aid in heart health and has even been linked to reduced cancer rates. Regarding physical activity, the subjects were placed into three categories: no physical activity (fewer than 2 hours of light physical activity a week); low physical activity (2 to 4 hours of light activity per week); and moderate to high physical activity (4 or more hours of light physical activity or more than 2 hours of more intense physical activity such as competitive sports).
The study’s first phase was from 1981 through 1983 when Danish researchers compiled health information on nearly 12,000 men and women. The initial goal was to find the effects of physical activity and weekly alcohol consumption on fatal ischaemic heart disease, which is a form of heart disease that leads to a reduced blood supply to the heart. However, the findings proved to be more complex.
According to an article in Medical News Today, the results were as follows:
• “Within each level of physical activity, non-drinkers had a 30 to 31 per cent higher risk of IHD than moderate drinkers.
• But non-drinkers who had a moderate or high level of physical activity had a reduced risk of IHD of 31 and 33 per cent compared with non-drinkers who were physically inactive.
• People who had at least one drink of alcohol a week and were classed as physically active had a 44 to 50 per cent lower risk of IHD compared with non-drinkers who were physically inactive.
• For each category of weekly alcohol consumption, the physically inactive had the highest risk of death from all causes (including IHD).
• Within each category of physical activity, the moderate drinkers had the lowest risk of death from all causes.
• Compared with physically inactive non-drinkers, being physically active was linked to 23 per cent lower risk of death from all causes.
• Compared with physically inactive non-drinkers, being physically active and having a moderate weekly alcohol intake was linked with 12 to 33 per cent lower risk of death from all causes.
• For both men and women, being physically active was linked to significantly lower risk of both fatal IHD and death from all causes than being physically inactive.”
Knowing the ever-changing world of scientific studies, one could come along next week that contradicts these results, or at least finds them nothing but coincidental. But for now, I think I’ll pour myself a glass of pinot noir and hop on the treadmill!