Stroke survivors who engage in physical activity three to four hours per week lower their risk of death by 54%, according to new data published in Neurology.
For patients younger than 75 years old, researchers added, being active can reduce the mortality risk by as much as 80%.
The study’s authors analyzed data from 895 stroke survivors and 97,805 people with no prior history of a stroke. The average ages were 72 years old for the stroke survivors and 63 years old for the patients with no stroke history. Patients were followed for an average of more than four years.
In the stroke cohort, 15% of people who exercised the equivalent of three to four hours of walking died during follow-up. For participants who did not exercise, however, that number was 33%.
Looking at patients with no history of stroke, 4% of people who exercised the equivalent of three to four hours of walking died during follow-up. Eight percent of patients with no history of stroke who did not exercise died.
In the study, examples of physical activity included walking, running, gardening, weight training, bicycling and swimming.
Looking specifically at stroke survivors under 75 years of age, Joundi et al. found that 11% of patients who were physically active died and 29% of patients who were not physically active died. Physical activity among these younger patients reduced the risk of death by 80%.
Stroke survivors under 75 years of age who met minimum physical activity requirements were almost 80% less inclined to die during follow-up than those who did not meet minimum exercise requirements.
Meanwhile, stroke survivors over 75 years of age who met minimum physical activity requirements were 32% less likely to die—not quite as much of a benefit, but still a significant number.
“Our results suggest that getting a minimum amount of physical activity may reduce long-term mortality from any cause in stroke survivors,” Joundi said. “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.”