Older men who spend several hours walking
each day are less likely to have a stroke than their peers who rarely walk, a
new study suggests. And walking pace didn't seem to matter.
Researchers said few studies have looked
specifically at how both walking speed and walking time or distance are linked
to stroke risk. "Stroke is a major cause of death and disability and it is
important to find ways to prevent it, especially in older people who are at
high stroke risk," Barbara J Jefferis told Reuters Health in an email.
She led the research at University College
London in the UK. "Our study suggests that maintaining an active lifestyle,
specifically by spending more time on all forms of walking, could be an
important part of stroke prevention strategies in older people," Jefferis said.
She and her co-authors analysed data from men enrolled in a long-term British
The men entered the study in 1978 to 1980.
In 1998 to 2000, when they were in their 60s and 70s, they filled out surveys
about how often they were physically active.
The new analysis includes 2 995 men who had
not had a stroke or heart disease at the time of that survey. Researchers
followed them for another 11 years. More than half of the men walked an hour or
less each day. About one in six reported walking more than two hours per day.
During the follow-up period, 195 of the men
had a stroke. The researchers found that the more time men spent walking, the
lower their risk of stroke. Men who walked four to seven hours each week were
11% less likely to have a stroke than men who walked for three hours per week
or less. But that difference could have been due to chance, Jefferis and her
colleagues reported in the journal Stroke.
stronger finding was that men who walked the most – for more than three hours
each day – had a two-thirds lower risk of stroke than those who spent the least
time walking. Walking pace was also tied to stroke risk, such that average-pace
or brisk walkers had a 38% lower risk of stroke than slow walkers. But distance
walked explained that finding: men who walked at an average or brisk pace also
walked further than their slower peers, according to the study. The findings
don't prove walking prevents strokes.
they could not be explained by factors known to increase a person's risk of
stroke, like age, blood pressure and cholesterol. More recently identified
markers of stroke, such as proteins associated with inflammation, blood
clotting or heart muscle damage also weren't behind the link.
"What we found was that all of these
factors explained only a small amount of the relationship between time spent
walking and onset of stroke," Jefferis said. "This suggests that
there may be other factors operating which explain why walking protects against
"Her team's study was funded by the
National Institute for Health Research and the British Heart Foundation.
Although it only included men, Jefferis said other research has suggested
walking is good for women, too.
instance, a team of Spanish researchers reported late last year that women who
walked briskly for at least three and a half hours per week had a lower risk of
stroke than inactive women.
to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), close to 800 000
people in the US have a stroke every year, and strokes are the most common
cause of serious long-term disability.
"Getting into the habit of walking
every day for at least an hour could protect against stroke," Jefferis
said. That can include walking that is done while running errands, walking for
leisure in a park or just walking around indoors. Both the World Health Organisation
and CDC recommend adults get at least two and a half hours of moderate exercise