Exercise and Alcohol Consumption: Implicit Associations, Joint Motives, and Actual Behaviors of Both



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Physical activity has been suggested as a potential intervention for alcohol use disorders (AUD), however, there is conflicting evidence as to its efficacy. This may be due, in part, to the well-established positive relationship between physical activity and alcohol intake, in that drinkers tend to be more active than non-drinkers. Prior studies have focused mainly on the explicit relationship between physical activity (PA) and alcohol consumption (AC); however, potential implicit links between alcohol use and exercise have not been investigated, thus, the overarching objective of this study was to determine whether there is an implicit association between PA and AC. A second objective was to evaluate potential joint motives underlying exercise and drinking (such as celebration), as that may further clarify the alcohol consumption-physical activity relationship. Male and female participants (N=391; 77% female) aged eighteen and above were recruited from two large southwestern universities. Participants completed self-report measures of alcohol frequency and quantity, drinking motives and enjoyment, exercise frequency and intensity, exercise motives and enjoyment, and religious perceptions pertaining to alcohol consumption. To evaluate implicit attitudes, participants took three Implicit Association Tests (IATs). IAT1 tested implicit attitudes toward alcohol consumption and exercise, with targets alcohol/water and attributes exercise/inactivity. IAT2 evaluated implicit drinking identity attitudes, with targets drinker/non-drinker and attributes me/not me. IAT3 examined implicit attitudes towards exercise importance, with targets exercise/rest and attributes important/unimportant. I expected to find a stronger implicit association between exercise and alcohol intake in participants who drink more in quantity and frequency, and those who exercise more intensely and frequently; I also expected the implicit link to be strongest in those who enjoy doing both. Additionally, I hypothesized that the more motivated individuals are to drink, the stronger their implicit drinking identity; and individuals with joint motives for exercise and drinking will have a stronger implicit association between both, and will drink and exercise more. Because religious adherence can affect alcohol perceptions and behaviors, I predicted that non-religious individuals drink and exercise more than religious individuals, and non-religious individuals have a stronger implicit drinking identity than religious individuals. I also hypothesized that non-religious participants’ perceptions toward alcohol use will be more positive than that of religious participants’. Contrary to my central hypotheses, my results yielded no association between implicit attitudes toward physical activity and alcohol use and actual behaviors for both. However, I did find that the more motivated participants are to drink, the stronger their implicit drinking identity; and participants who expressed joint motivation to exercise and drink have a stronger implicit association between exercise and drinking, and tend to consume more alcohol. Interestingly, there were no significant differences between non-religious and religious individuals’ amount and frequency of alcohol consumption, exercise frequency and intensity, or implicit drinking identity, although non-religious individuals’ perceptions toward alcohol use were more positive than those of religious people. Taken together, these findings provide preliminary evidence linking implicit attitudes, joint motives for exercise and drinking, religious perceptions toward alcohol use, and the actual behaviors of exercise and drinking. Having a better understanding of these relationships may help in the development of appropriate exercise-based interventions for AUDs.



Physical activity, Alcohol consumption