Regular aerobic workouts help counteract some of the damaging effects of drinking too much alcohol, a new U.S. study finds.
In the study, heavy drinking was linked with damage to the brain's white matter, but only among those who didn't engage in aerobic exercise, such as walking, biking, or jogging. For those who exercised regularly, there was no link between heavy boozing and white-matter damage.
White matter forms "cables" in the brain so that different regions can communicate with each other. But because of the damage to drinkers' brains in the study, "white matter is not moving messages between areas of the brain as efficiently as normal," said study researcher Hollis Karoly, a doctoral researcher in Colorado University at Boulder's psychology and neuroscience department.
Still, the researchers note that their study only looked at white matter, not other parts of the brain, and that heavy drinking damages other organs in the body as well and is best avoided to maintain good health.
The study involved 60 men and women, from nondrinkers to extremely heavy drinkers and from exercise enthusiasts to those who were inactive. Subjects all underwent MRI scans in addition to responding to survey questions.
The study was published online April 16 in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.