A new study from the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) is one of the first to study the relationship between exercise and stroke in the United States. These findings were published in the American Heart Association journal.
Using 27,000 stroke-free people, ages 45 and older, researchers examined the association of physical activity with stroke occurrences. Participants were predetermined to be inactive (almost never exercising), moderately active (exercising 1 to 3 times per week) or extremely active (exercising more than 4 times per week), and they were followed for an average of 5.7 years.
Those who reported that they exercised at least 4 times a week were less likely to experience a stroke or mini-stroke.
“The protective effect of intense physical activity may be through its impact on traditional risk factors such as hypertension and diabetes,” explained Virginia Howard, Ph.D., UAB professor of epidemiology and senior study author.
Howard added that stroke is preventable, and physical activity is a major game-changer for the likelihood of having a stroke. “This should be emphasized more in routine physician check-ups, along with general education on the proven health benefits of regular physical activity on other stroke-risk factors including high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity,” says Howard.
Though the study was self-reported, and researchers were not able to determine the relative intensity of exercise, findings are still strong.
This study received support from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.