(RxWiki News) Exercising is a key part of staying healthy, but you don't always have to sprint to reap the benefits. New research shows that leisurely walking may have significant health advantages.
Researchers recently found that men who walked at least an hour per day were significantly less likely to have a stroke. The health benefits of walking increased for people who walked more hours and miles each week.
The authors of this study suggested that an activity as simple as walking could be a very helpful stroke prevention strategy.
"Take a walk each day."
Barbara Jefferis, PhD, a senior research associate in the Department of Primary Care & Population Health at University College London, led this study which looked at walking habits and stroke risk.
According to the researchers, older adults have a higher risk of stroke and lower physical activity levels than younger and middle-aged adults.
Strokes occur when blood flow to the brain is interrupted, sometimes causing serious brain damage or even death. One of the risk factors for stroke is a lack of physical activity in middle and older age.
This study looked at how walking, one of the easiest and most common forms of exercise among older adults, affected stroke risk in men.
The researchers used 4,252 male participants from a UK study who reported their physical exercise levels. They followed up with the men for 11 years.
A total of 3,357 participants were initially free from heart disease, stroke and heart failure when the study began. The men walked an average of seven hours per week.
Of these men, 64 percent reported walking at a steady average pace, while 24 percent walked fairly quickly.
Over the course of the 11-year follow-up period, 195 participants experienced strokes.
The men who spent zero to three hours per week walking were significantly more likely to have a stroke than men who walked four or more hours per week.
The group of men who walked zero to three miles per week had an estimated 7.4 strokes per thousand people. Those who walked 15 miles or more had only 4.9 strokes per thousand people.
Men who spent 22 or more hours per week walking experienced only 2.7 strokes per thousand people.
The researchers noted that the total time spent walking, not the intensity of the activity, seemed to affect the participants' stroke risk much more.
The authors of this study noted that previous studies support the claim that higher levels of leisure time physical activity are associated with reduced rates of strokes.
The authors noted that their study did have limitations because none of the participants were female.
They concluded that for men, more walking time was associated with a reduced risk of having a stroke. The researchers suggested that walking could be an important part of stroke prevention strategies.
"Being active is an integral part of a healthy lifestyle," said Jim Crowell, owner and head trainer at Integrated Fitness.
"The benefits are far reaching but one of the greatest benefits that I see with non active people getting more active is that they become more aware of some important areas in their lives such as their nutrition. I have seen countless examples of older clients come in and see tremendous results from riding the momentum of an active lifestyle that started from walking consistently," Crowell said.
This study was published in the American Heart Association's journal Stroke on November 14.
The research was funded by the British Regional Heart Study and the NIHR. The authors disclosed no conflicts of interest.