To examine whether higher levels of cardiorespiratory fitness are related to increased alcohol consumption and dependence among a large sample of adults attending a preventive medicine clinic.
A cross-sectional study of 38,653 apparently healthy patients who visited the Cooper Clinic (Dallas, TX) for preventive medical examinations (1988–2019) and enrolled in the Cooper Center Longitudinal Study. The primary independent variable was cardiorespiratory fitness, based on a maximal treadmill test, and the dependent variables were alcohol consumption and dependence (self-reported). The relations between fitness category (low, moderate, high) and alcohol consumption (low, moderate, heavy) and suggested alcohol dependence (Cut down, Annoyed, Guilty, Eye opener score ≥2) among women and men were estimated via multivariable regression while adjusting for covariates (e.g., age, birth year cohort, marital status, and body mass index).
Women within the moderate and high fitness categories had 1.58 (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.32–1.91) and 2.14 (95% CI, 1.77–2.58) greater odds of moderate/heavy alcohol consumption, respectively, in comparison to their low fitness counterparts. Similarly, moderate and high fit men had 1.42 (95% CI, 1.30–1.55) and 1.63 (95% CI, 1.49–1.80) times greater odds of moderate-to-heavy alcohol consumption, respectively, in comparison to the low fitness group. In addition, among men who were heavy drinkers (but not women), higher fitness levels were related to lower rates of suggested alcohol dependence. Specifically, these men had 45.7%, 41.7%, and 34.9% proportions of clinically relevant alcohol problems across low, moderate, and high fitness categories (adjusted P for trend <0.001).
Higher fitness levels are significantly related to greater alcohol consumption among a large cohort of adult patients. Interventions focusing on increasing fitness (via physical activity promotion) might consider concurrently aiming to reduce alcohol consumption.