Workouts may help reduce alcohol consumption

alcohol consumption

Summary: About 5% of US adults are living with alcohol use disorder (AUD). However, only one-fifth of them ever seek treatment for the condition. People do not seek treatment as they dislike treatment modalities, hence the need to find new treatments for AUD. The new study shows that yoga and aerobic exercises can control cravings and reduce alcohol intake.

Alcohol consumption is pretty common in the US and globally. In the US, 70-80% of adults drink alcohol quite regularly. In addition, about 5% of adults in the US are living with alcohol use disorder (AUD). It means that they are addicted to alcohol, frequently abuse alcohol, and engage in binge drinking.

As one can see that only a small fraction of those who consume alcohol are living with AUD, a kind of mental health disease. Though researchers are unsure of why some develop this condition, they think it is due to some intrinsic differences.

AUD is associated with significant mortality. It is among the leading causes of death in young adults. Not only that, but AUD also causes numerous other health issues. Those living with AUD are also more likely to be living with anxiety and depression. In addition, AUD often occurs with other issues like tobacco abuse.

Barriers to seeking help

Though there are many effective ways to treat AUD, like psychological therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and medical drugs, but many do not seek AUD treatment. Studies show that no more than 20% of those living with AUD will ever seek medical help.

It appears that there are many reasons why people do not seek medical help, like the stigma attached to the condition. Some are dissatisfied with the existing therapies. Many people will not like to spend time in opioid addiction treatment centers. Others are discouraged by the side effects of medical drugs. All this means there is a need to find treatments with greater acceptability. A kind of treatment that is more readily accessible to millions of adults living with AUD.

Yoga and aerobic exercise may help reduce alcohol consumption

In the new study, researchers tested the role of aerobic exercise and yoga in reducing alcohol intake. They carried out a study on 140 adults living with AUD. They divided them into three groups: one group doing yoga, the second group doing aerobic exercise, and the third group were given standard treatment. They were asked to engage in exercise a minimum of three times a week, and the study continued for 12 weeks.

To monitor their patients, doctors used various blood tests and accelerometers. They found that alcohol consumption was reduced significantly in all three groups. However, they found the most significant reduction in the yoga group. In addition, they found that yoga was not inferior to usual AUD treatment, and aerobic exercise of just slightly less effective.

However, it is worth understanding that the benefits of yoga and aerobic training were not limited to reduced alcohol intake. These interventions also resulted in reduced anxiety and improved mood. They also found that exercise was good for reducing alcohol cravings. The impact of exercise was especially high for the next few hours.

Thus, researchers think that the best time to engage in yoga and exercise is at times when the craving is maximum. Hence, it would be good to engage in exercise in the afternoon or in the evening. This will help counter cravings and thus reduce alcohol use.

Researchers say that there could be many ways in which exercise helps. For example, exercise appears to make people feel good and thus can modulate dopaminergic or reward pathways. Exercise can also help by boosting self-esteem.

Gurpreet Singh Padda, MD, MBA, MHP

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