exercise-alcohol-abusePhysical exercise is good for the mind and body, as well as being a key element to living a longer life. New research from Denmark, has found increased exercise throughout one’s life is tied to a reduced risk of abusing alcohol and alcoholism that requires treatment, Reuters reports. Researchers followed a group of adults for 20 years.

While the connection is still unclear, participants who reported being more active in their free time were less likely to need to be treated for an alcohol use disorder, according to the article.

“Although we and for that matter others have not proven a causal relationship between physical activity and risk of developing alcohol use disorders, it is likely that there is a causal link,” said coauthor Dr. Ulrik Becker of the National Institute of Public Health at the University of Southern Denmark in Copenhagen. “We know from other studies that physical activity reduces the risk of other psychiatric problems . . . as well as studies that seem to show that physical activity increases the benefit of treatment in alcohol use disorder patients,” Becker told Reuters.

Many who work in the recovery field have seen firsthand that those who enter treatment benefit from engaging in physical exercise.

Between 1976 and 2003, researchers collected data from four surveys mailed to more than 18,000 adults in Copenhagen. Participants were separated into three groups: high levels of activity (more than four hours per week), low levels (two to four hours per week), and sedentary.

Researchers found that by the end of the study 736 people, or four percent, had been diagnosed with an alcohol use disorder. People in the sedentary group were found to have the highest risk of alcohol abuse.

“These results strengthen the general recommendation of increased physical activity and add to the long list of beneficial effects of physical activity,” Becker said.

The findings were published in Alcohol and Alcoholism.