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Drinking and physical activity behaviors established during college years may extend well into later adulthood. Counterintuitively, ample evidence demonstrates a positive association between physical activity (PA) and alcohol consumption (AC), in that individuals who drink more engage in more physical activity. Prior work has focused mainly on between-person analyses of the PA-AC association, while only a handful of studies have addressed within-person effects, which may yield a different pattern of the PA-AC relation. Because PA is increasingly recommended as an adjunctive treatment for alcohol use disorders, it is important to get a comprehensive understanding of the relationship between PA and drinking. Notably, recent research has revealed that impulsivity (IMP) moderated the between-person PA-AC association, and the literature suggests that religiosity (REL) is inversely related to alcohol intake. To this end, this project evaluated within- and between-person associations between PA and AC, paying particular attention to the potential moderating influences of IMP and REL. Participants, consisting of 250 undergraduate students between the ages of 18 and 25, were recruited from two Southwestern universities and were asked to take part in a 21-day diary study, documenting their daily PA and AC behaviors. PA was also tracked objectively through a smartphone app. Participants also filled out baseline (Day 1) and follow-up (Day 21) self-report measures of PA, AC, IMP and REL. Data analysis evaluated interactions between AC and PA and the influences of IMP and REL at the daily level (within-person) and at the person level (between-person). Results revealed that PA and AC were unassociated at neither within- nor between-person levels across 21 days. Similarly, PA and AC were unassociated at baseline or at follow-up. Further results revealed an inconsistent pattern of interactions between facets of IMP and PA on drinking outcomes, suggesting differential moderating influences of some of the dimensions of IMP on the PA-AC association. However, no moderating effects of REL on the relationship between PA and AC were found. Findings may help address the challenges behind developing suitable multi-behavior interventions and health guidelines when a health-promoting behavior and a health risk behavior systematically covary among young adults in college.



alcohol consumption, physical activity, within-person analyses, between-person analyses, impulsivity, religiosity


Portions of this document appear in: West, Rebecca K., Laian Z. Najjar, and J. Leigh Leasure. "Exercise-driven restoration of the alcohol-damaged brain." International review of neurobiology 147 (2019): 219-267.