Drinking Alcohol in Moderation and Exercising Both Improve Health

Unless contraindicated because of medical conditions, medications, family history, pregnancy or other factors, abstinence from the moderate consumption of alcohol is a health and longevity risk factor. That is, avoiding alcoholic drinks increases the risk of cardiac disease, other illness, illness, and death.

Cardiac disease is a major cause of death and aerobic exercise can also reduce the risk of such death, but it can't serve as a substitute for the moderate consumption of alcohol.

Researchers at the National Institute of Public Health in Denmark studied about 12,000 men and women over a period of 20 years. The medical investigators found:

  • The lowest risk of fatal heart disease occurred among those who both drank moderately and exercised. They had a 50% reduced risk compared to non-drinkers who didn't exercise. (Moderate drinking was defined as consuming an average of up to two drinks per day for both men and women. This is twice as high as the US federal recommendation for women.)
  • A higher risk was found among (a) those who abstained from alcohol but exercised and (b) those who drank in moderation but didn't exercise. In both cases the risk of heart disease dropped about 30% compared to abstaining non-exercisers.
  • The highest risk was found among those who neither drank nor exercised. Their risk of dying from heart disease was twice as high as those who drank moderately and exercised.

The medical research indicates that moderate drinking and exercising are not interchangeable but are cumulative in their positive effects on the cardiovascular system. Doing one is better than nothing, but doing both is the best choice of all and dramatically reduces the risk death from heart attack. The same was also found for mortality from all causes combined.

Note: This site does not provide any medical opinion or advice. Any health concerns should be discussed with a qualified medical care provider.


  • Østergaard Pedersen J, Heitmann BL, Schnohr P, Grønbæk M. The combined influence of leisure-time physical activity and weekly alcohol intake on fatal ischaemic heart disease and all-cause mortality. European Heart Journal 2008; DOI:10.1093/eurheartj/ehm574.

Filed Under: Longevity