by Amanda MacMillan
Terry DoyleWe already know that aerobic exercise is good for your brain -- at least in terms of normal age-related decline. Now, a new study shows that it may also prevent, or even repair, neurological damage caused by heavy drinking. And while the authors caution that this is not an excuse to go out and get wasted (we don't really need to go into the why, do we?), it may help us feel a teeeeny bit better about our transgressions of days past ... and our potential slip-ups in the future.
See more: Spring's 6 Hottest Beauty Trends
The study, published online today in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, compared brain scans of 37 men and 23 women with questionnaires they'd filled out about their drinking and exercise habits. It found that heavy drinking had a much more negative impact on the health of "white matter" (i.e. nerve cells responsible for communication between various parts of the brain) in individuals with low levels of aerobic activity; for those who did break a sweat regularly, the relationship was not as strong.
See more: The 8 Things That Are Making You Break Out
Cardiovascular exercise is already used by some recovering alcoholics as an outlet for cravings, says the study's co-author Angela Bryan, a psychology and neuroscience professor at the University of Colorado-Boulder. This new research suggests it may one day be used as a real treatment tool, as well. "It has the potential to make the brain more healthy," she says. "And the healthier the brain is, the more likely a person with alcohol issues is to recover."
What the study does not suggest, however, is that we can erase our past drinking binges with workout binges -- or that we can avoid all the dangers of drinking by sweating out a hangover. Workouts are undoubtedly good for our brains, whether we drink or not, that's true. But to really stay healthy head to toe, we've still got to take it easy on the booze (especially those diet cocktails).
More from SELF:
Superfood Recipes for Weight Loss
Lose 2 Pounds in a Week!
The Ultimate Guide to Gym Hair
Top Secrets of the Beauty Pros
by Amanda MacMillan