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Last updated on April 25, 2014 at 1:22 EDT

Exercise Cuts Risk of Stroke

August 6, 2005

Even moderate levels of activity produce results, study finds

HealthDay News — High levels of leisure-time physical activity — such as swimming, running or heavy gardening — can cut your stroke risk, the results of a Finnish study suggest.

The study of 47,721 Finns, ages 25 to 64, also found that cycling or walking to work each day helps reduce the risk of stroke.

Study participants who reported high levels of leisure-time physical activity had a 26 percent lower risk of any kind of stroke than those with a low level of physical activity. People with a moderate level of physical activity had a 14 percent lower risk of stroke than those with low activity levels.

“Since the increase in computerization and mechanization has resulted in ever-increasing numbers of people being sedentary for most of their working time, adding short time exercise during working breaks or adding walking activity during work time is recommended. We believe it would be cost efficient for employers,” study lead investigator Gang Hu of the National Public Health Institute in Finland, said in a prepared statement.

In their report, published in the Aug. 5 issue of the journal Stroke, the investigators also examined the link between levels of physical activity and the risk for specific kinds of stroke. Compared to people with low levels of physical activity, the risk of ischemic stroke — caused by a blood clot that blocks blood flow to the brain — was 20 percent lower for those with high physical activity levels and 13 percent lower for those with moderate activity levels.

The risk of subarachnoid stroke — caused by bleeding between the brain and its membrane — was 54 percent lower among people with high activity levels and 13 percent lower among those with moderate activity levels. The risk for intracranial hemorrhage — bleeding into the brain — was 37 percent lower for people with high activity levels and 23 percent lower for those with moderate activity levels.

Compared to people who got no exercise going to work, those who walked or cycled to work for more than 30 minutes had an 11 percent lower risk of stroke, while those who got one to 29 minutes of exercise on the way to work had an eight percent lower stroke risk.

“People should increase their physical activity during leisure time or commuting to lower the risk of stroke,” Hu said.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about exercise (www.familydoctor.org ).