Walking for just half an hour may reduce severity of strokes

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stroke, Stroke, walking, exercise, physical activity
Active people may have less severe strokes

People who participate in light to moderate physical activity may have less severe strokes

People who participate in light to moderate physical activity, such as walking at least four hours a week or swimming two to three hours a week, may have less severe strokes when compared to  people who are physically inactive, according to a study published in the online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

“While exercise benefits health in many ways, our research suggests that even simply getting in a small amount of physical activity each week may have a big impact later by possibly reducing the severity of a stroke,” said study author Katharina S. Sunnerhagen, MD, PhD, of the University of Gothenburg in Sweden.

Researchers identified 925 people with an average age of 73 who had a stroke from the Swedish stroke registries and looked at their stroke severity based on symptoms such as eye, arm and facial movements, level of consciousness and language skills. 80 percent of the participants had a mild stroke.

People who engaged in light to moderate physical activity before their stroke were twice as likely to have a mild stroke rather than a moderate or severe stroke

Light physical activity was defined as walking at least four hours a week. Moderate physical activity was defined as more intense exercise such as swimming, brisk walking, or running two to three hours a week. More than half of study participants said they were physically inactive before having their stroke.

Researchers found that people who engaged in light to moderate physical activity before their stroke were twice as likely to have a mild stroke rather than a moderate or severe stroke when compared to people who were physically inactive. Of 481 people who were physically inactive, 354 had mild stroke, or 73 percent. Of 384 who engaged in light physical activity, 330 had mild stroke, or 85 percent. Of 59 people who engaged in moderate physical activity, 53 had mild stroke, or 89 percent. Researchers found that light and moderate physical activity were equally beneficial.

According to a 2013 article in the Journal of Stroke, “Developing countries like India are facing a double burden of communicable and non-communicable diseases. Stroke is one of the leading causes of death and disability in India. The estimated adjusted prevalence rate of stroke range, 84-262/100,000 in rural and 334-424/100,000 in urban areas. The incidence rate is 119-145/100,000 based on the recent population based studies. There is also a wide variation in case fatality rates with the highest being 42% in Kolkata.”

Participants reporting on their own physical activity after having a stroke is a limitation of the study.

“There is a growing body of evidence that physical activity may have a protective effect on the brain and our research adds to that evidence,” said Sunnerhagen.

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