Walking and Stroke Risk

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

A nearly 12-year follow-up study of 39,315 women (average age 54) has found that women who walked two or more hours per week had a significantly lower risk for stroke than non-walkers. Those who usually walked at a brisk pace also had a significantly lower risk than women who didn’t walk. The study’s results were recently published in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association (AHA).

Compared to women who did not walk:

  • Women who walked two or more hours per week had a 30 percent lower risk for any type of stroke.
  • Women who walked two or more hours per week had a 57 percent lower risk for hemorrhagic (bleeding) stroke.
  • Women who usually walked more than two hours per week had a 21 percent lower risk for ischemic (clot-related) stroke.
  • Compared to women who did not walk, those who usually walked at a brisk pace had a:

  • 37 percent lower risk for any type of stroke.
  • 68 percent lower risk for hemorrhagic stroke.
  • 25 percent lower risk for ischemic stroke.
  • In the study, walking pace was categorized as:

  • Casual — about 2 mph,
  • Normal — 2 to 2.9 mph,
  • Brisk — 3 to 3.9 mph, and
  • Very brisk — 4 mph.
  • Lead researcher Jacob Sattelmair of the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston offered this practical advice for pacing oneself: "If you cannot talk, slow down a bit. If you can sing, walk a bit faster."

    Forms of physical activity other than walking were also addressed by the study. The women who were most active in their leisure time activities were 17 percent less likely to have any type of stroke compared to the least active women. Sattelmair said, "Though the exact relationship among different types of physical activity and different stroke subtypes remains unclear, the results of this specific study indicate that walking, in particular, is associated with lower risk of stroke."

    It is still unclear how walking, specifically, affects stroke risk in men. For substantial health benefits, the AHA recommends that all adults perform at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes per week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, or a combination.

    To see the AHA news release on this study, click here.

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