A little exercise combined with a little alcohol may be the key to living a longer life, according to a new study published in the European Heart Journal.
The study found people who drink moderate amounts of alcohol and are physically active have a lower risk of death from heart disease and other causes compared to people who don't drink at all.
In fact, the Danish researchers found people who neither drink nor exercise have up to a 49 percent increased risk of heart disease than people who either drank, exercised or did both.
The research looks at the combined influence of leisure-time physical activity and weekly alcohol intake on the risk of fatal ischaemic heart disease (a form of heart disease characterized by a reduced blood supply to the heart) and deaths from all causes.
From 1981 to 1983 the researchers obtained information on various health-related issues (including exercise and alcohol intake) from nearly 12,000 Danish men and women.
During approximately 20 years of follow-up, there were more than 1,200 cases of fatal ischaemic heart disease (IHD) and nearly 6,000 deaths from all causes among the study participants.
“Our study shows that being both physically active and drinking a moderate amount of alcohol is important for lowering the risk of both fatal IHD and death from all causes," said Professor Morten Gronbaek, director of research of the National Institute of Public Health at the University of Southern Denmark in Copenhagen, in a news release.
"For both men and women, being physically active was associated with a significantly lower risk for both fatal IHD and all-cause mortality than being physically inactive; and drinking alcohol was associated with a lower risk of fatal IHD than abstaining. A weekly moderate alcohol intake reduced the risk of all-cause mortality among both men and women, whereas the risk among heavy drinkers was similar to non-drinkers," he added.
“The lowest risk of death from all causes was observed among the physically active moderate drinkers and the highest risk among the physically inactive non-drinkers and heavy drinkers," said Jane Ostergaard Pedersen, lead author of the study, in a news release.
“Neither physical activity alone nor alcohol intake can completely reverse the increased risk associated with alcohol abstention and lack of physical activity. Thus, both moderate to high levels of physical activity and a moderate alcohol intake are important for lowering the risk of fatal IHD and deaths from all causes," she concluded.