A new research suggests that one of the best ways to greatly boost survival after a stroke is to walk for about 30 minutes every day.
The study published August 11, 2021, in the journal Neurology, found that walking, gardening or cycling for the equivalent of half-an-hour a day after having a stroke can reduce the risk of early death by 54%.
They also found that stroke survivors who are younger in age (less than 75 years) achieved the greatest health benefits, as they had an 80% reduced risk of death with at least the same amount of exercise.
In the study, the researchers examined 895 people with an average age of 72 who had a prior stroke and 97,805 people with an average age of 63 who had never had a stroke.
They evaluated the average weekly physical activity of the participants using questions about frequency and duration of activities such as walking, running, gardening, weight training, bicycling and swimming.
The scientists monitored participants for an average of about four and a half years.
The results showed that:
– 25% of the people who had previous strokes died from any cause, compared to 6% of the people who had never had a stroke.
– In the stroke group, 15% of the people who exercised at least the equivalent of three to four hours of walking each week died during follow up, compared to 33%, who did not exercise that minimum amount.
– In the group of people who had never had strokes, 4% of the people who exercised that amount died, compared to 8% who did not.
Younger people benefitted the most
According to the researchers, people under 75 years of age who had a prior stroke had the greatest drop in death rate. In that group, 11% of those who exercised at least the minimum amount died, compared to 29% who did not.
People with previous stroke who were under 75 years of age and met the minimum level of physical activity were about 80% less likely to die during study follow-up than those who did not.
People over 75 years of age who exercised the minimum experienced less of a benefit, but were still 32% less likely to die.
The study author, Raed A. Joundi, MD, DPhil, of the University of Calgary in Canada and a member of the American Academy of Neurology, said “a better understanding of the role of physical activity in the health of people who survive stroke is needed to design better exercise therapies and public health campaigns so we can help these individuals live longer.”
“Our results are exciting, because just three to four hours a week of walking was associated with big reductions in mortality, and that may be attainable for many community members with prior stroke.”
“In addition, we found people achieved even greater benefit with walking six to seven hours per week.”
“These results might have implications for guidelines for stroke survivors in the future.”
“We should particularly emphasize this to stroke survivors who are younger in age, as they may gain the greatest health benefits from walking just thirty minutes each day,” Joundi said.