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Study: Cardio Could Lessen Brain Damage from Alcohol

Work hard, play hard. New research suggests that regular exercise may counter the brain-damaging effects of moderate to heavy drinking.

Good news if you're the type to refuel with a beer or two post-workout: A new study published in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research suggests that regular cardio workouts could help protect your brain from the damage that alcohol inflicts.

The study looked at white matter—the stuff that controls learning, cognition, and communication with other parts of the brain—and found that regular drinkers who also made aerobic exercise (walking, running, biking, etc.) a priority suffered less damage than boozers who didn't work out at all.

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“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 in a news release. “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.”

Although the results are preliminary, Angela Bryan, a study co-author and neuroscience professor at Colorado University—Boulder, says she's hopeful that this means alcohol-induced brain damage can be mitigated or even reversed by getting your heart rate up on a regular basis.

But don't start filling your Camelbak with Bud Light just yet. The research relied on self-reported data from 60 moderate to heavy drinkers, so scientists have not calculated a magic formula to figure out just how many miles in the park will offset Saturday night's binge.

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