A little exercise goes a long way.
A new study suggests that people younger than 75 years old who have had a stroke and participate in at least 30 minutes of walking or other equivalent activity each day may benefit from a 80% lower risk of death from any cause.
Stroke survivors older than 75 who exercise at least the same amount may not have as large of a benefit as their younger counterparts but still may be 32% less likely to die overall.
The study’s findings, which were published Wednesday in the journal Neurology, were based on survey responses to the Canadian Community Health Survey of nearly 99,000 people, about 900 of whom have a history of stroke.
“Our results suggest that getting a minimum amount of physical activity may reduce long-term mortality from any cause in stroke survivors,” study author Dr. Raed Joundi, of the University of Calgary in Canada and a member of the American Academy of Neurology, said in a statement.
“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.”
Researchers followed study participants for about four and a half years. They based data on responses to survey questions about the frequency and duration of participants’ physical activity.
Within the study period, the team found that 25% of people who had strokes died from any cause compared to 6% of those who never had a stroke.
When considering exercise activity, 15% of people who had strokes and exercised for at least the equivalent of three to four hours of walking each week died during the study period.
Meanwhile, 33% of those who had a stroke history but did not exercise the minimum amount died. Risk of death continued to drop as people spent more time exercising.
“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,” Joundi said.
Joundi added that the “results are exciting” because walking for 30 minutes each day “may be attainable for many community members with prior stroke. These results might have implications for guidelines for stroke survivors in the future.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says stroke is a leading cause of “serious long-term disability” in the U.S.
In 2018 alone, one in every six deaths from cardiovascular disease was caused by stroke.
People who smoke, as well as those with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity and diabetes, face the highest risks of stroke.
The CDC says one in three American adults have at least one of these conditions or habits.