Walking for half-an-hour a day reduces risk of death after a stroke, study suggests

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fitness woman hiker feet hiking on stone trail
Walking may boost a patient's surivial prospects after a stroke. (Stock, Getty Images)

A daily half-an-hour stroll may ward off death after a stroke, research suggests.

Official guidance recommends adults be moderately active for at least 150 minutes a week, which can include brisk walking.

Regular exercise reduces the risk of a stroke in the first place, however, stress, smoking and excessive alcohol consumption can also trigger the life-threatening episode.

Scientists from the University of Calgary in Canada have now found an active lifestyle could boost a patient's outcome after a stroke.

Read more: Stroke signs strike 10 years before the event

Writing in the journal Neurology, the team has revealed how walking, gardening or cycling for the equivalent of half-an-hour a day reduces a stroke survivor's risk of death over the next 4.5 years by 54%.

Illustration of human brain with stroke symptom
A stroke occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is cut off. (Stock, Getty Images)

A stroke occurs every five minutes in the UK. More than 1 million Britons have survived a stroke, which can cause lasting communication, visual and psychological issues. 

"A better understanding of the role of physical activity in the health of people who survive stroke is needed to design better exercise therapies and public health campaigns so we can help these individuals live longer," said study author Dr Raed Joundi. 

"Our results are exciting because just three to four hours a week of walking was associated with big reductions in mortality and that may be attainable for many community members with prior stroke. 

Read more: Breathing exercise lowers blood pressure more than walking

"In addition, we found people achieved even greater benefit with walking six to seven hours per week. 

"These results might have implications for guidelines for stroke survivors in the future."

The scientists compared 895 stroke survivors – average age 72 – against nearly 98,000 volunteers, aged 63, who had never endured the health scare.

The participants were asked questions like: "In the past three months, how many times did you walk for exercise? About how much time did you spend on each occasion?".

Over the next 4.5 years, a quarter (25%) of the stroke survivors died from any cause, compared to just 6% of those who had never endured the life-threatening event.

Read more: Slow walkers more likely to die with coronavirus

Among the stroke survivors, 15% of the participants who walked for at least three to four hours a week – the equivalent of 25 to 34 minutes a day – died during the follow up, compared to a third (33%) of those who did not reach that exercise threshold.

In the control group, 4% of the regular exercisers died during the follow-up period, versus 8% of those with a more sedentary lifestyle.

Watch: Stroke risk increases after COVID-19

The results were most pronounced among the stroke survivors aged under 75, with regular exercise cutting their risk of death by 80%. Nevertheless, the older patients were still 32% less likely to die than their sedentary counterparts.

"Our results suggest getting a minimum amount of physical activity may reduce long-term mortality from any cause in stroke survivors," said Dr Joundi. 

"We should particularly emphasise this to stroke survivors who are younger in age, as they may gain the greatest health benefits from walking just 30 minutes each day."

The results remained the same after the scientists accounted for other factors that could affect a person's risk of dying over a set period of time, like old age and smoking.

The participants self-reported their activity levels, which may however have affected the accuracy of the results, according to the scientists.

Watch: Demi Lovato has 'brain damage' after three strokes and a heart attack

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