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The paradoxical relationship between exercise and alcohol use among college freshmen

1 January 2016


Exercise has been proposed as an intervention mechanism for collegiate drinking. Intervention studies have demonstrated that alcohol consumption decreased when exercise increased; however, survey studies generally find that alcohol consumption increases as exercise increases. Given these mixed and seemingly paradoxical findings, the current study examined exercise motives as possible explanations for the relationship. Specifically, it was hypothesized that fitness motives for exercise would correlate negatively with drinking whereas other exercise motives would correlate positively or not at all. College Freshmen (N=139) completed a survey describing their alcohol use, exercise involvement, motives to drink alcohol, and motives to exercise. Recent alcohol consumption (past three months) was not correlated with exercise motives. Subsequent regression analysis, controlling for sex and exercise, revealed only Fitness Motive as a statistically reliable predictor of drinking. As hypothesized, as fitness motives increased, alcohol consumption decreased, F(1,131) = 8.387, p=.004, sr2 = .053. There was a statistical trend for a positive relationship between Appearance Motive and Drink, F(1,131) = 3.415, p=.067, sr2 = .022. None of the other three exercise motives (Competence, Interest/Enjoyment, and Social) were related to alcohol consumption.


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