Regular exercise may protect the brain from the damaging effects of alcohol, according to a small new study.
Aerobic exercise may protect the brain from alcohol damage
Aerobic activities such as running, cycling or swimming could prevent brain damage which occurs from alcohol abuse, say scientists from the University of Colorado.
Nerve cells in the brain that make up “white matter” are essential for efficient brain function. When these cells are damaged from alcohol, problems develop with cognitive processes such as memory, attention and self-regulation.
To look at the relationship between exercise and white matter in drinkers, the team of researchers carried out brain scans of 60 people aged between 21 and 55.
All the participants answered questioned about their alcohol use, their smoking and their exercise habits.
The people in the study who appeared to exercise the most reported two hours of physical activity a week, and drink nearly 1.75 drinks a day on average. Those who exercised the least drank an average of less than 1.4 drinks a day.
Writing in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, the team found that light but frequent exercise was related to less damage to the brain’s connective tissue among heavy drinkers.
Those who drank but didn’t exercise had lower levels of “white matter” in the brain. Lead researcher Hollis Karoly said:
“For people who drink a lot and don't exercise, our study showed the integrity of white matter is compromised in several areas of the brain.”
The study concluded that whilst brain damage caused by alcoholism is not likely to be completely undone by a regular exercise regime later in life, there is still a benefit to heavy drinkers.
Karoly said: “Overall, we hope that this study inspires future research into the relationship between alcohol, exercise and the brain.”
Experts recommend that anyone who drinks heavily or suffers from alcoholism should get a medical evaluation before undertaking aerobic exercise.
Keeping at a healthy BMI is one way you could lower your health insurance premiums.
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