Exercise Might Reduce, Reverse Alcohol-Related Brain Damage

It does not, however, erase last night's mistakes

Well, this makes us feel a little bit better about last weekend: A new study from the University of Colorado Boulder has found that regular aerobic exercise has been associated with less brain damage in heavy alcohol users.

The study, published in Alcoholism: Clinial & Experimental Research, surveyed 60 people and found that regularly walking, running, or biking decreased damage to the brain's "white matter." White matter refers to nerve cells that transmit information between various parts of the brain.

"We found that for people who drink a lot and exercise a lot, there was not a strong relationship between alcohol and white matter," lead study author Hollis Karoly said. "But 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. It basically means white matter is not moving messages between areas of the brain as efficiently as normal."

So exercise could help remedy the damage done by heavy drinking, and perhaps curb alcoholism by providing an activity other than drinking. Bonus points for aerobic exercises: it not only benefits the heart and muscles, but is also associated with more white matter volume in older adults, regardless of drinking habits. We'll start penciling in some aerobics classes, stat.

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