In a large Canadian study of stroke survivors living in the community, researchers found that those who spent 3 to 4 hours per week walking or gardening, or biking 2 to 3 hours per week, had a 54% lower risk of death from any cause.
And risk began to go down with any amount of exercise over zero, they noted.
"We know that physical activity is important from studies of the general population when it comes to reducing cardiovascular events, heart attacks, and stroke, but stroke [patients] are a special group of individuals who generally have a lower level of physical activity due to potentially persistent disability," said lead study author Raed A. Joundi, MD, of the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada.
"If we can identify a relatively low-cost and easy intervention like physical activity to improve health and reduce the risk of death for stroke survivors, it would be important."
Following stroke survivors over an average of 5 years, investigators found the most notable effects of exercise among the younger survivors. Those under 75 had a 79% reduction in risk of death, compared to those 75 and older, who were found to have a 32% reduced risk.
Paul George, MD, an assistant professor of neurology at Stanford University in California, said the results further prove that people should keep exercising after they have a stroke.
"Future research to determine the key barriers to physical activity following stroke and methods to reduce these will also be important to increasing physical activity in stroke survivors," he said.
Finding out how to tailor exercise recommendations to meet the wide range of abilities of stroke survivors will also be key, Joundi said
"Stroke survivors may have some disabilities, so we need to be able to engage them at an [exercise] level that's possible for them," he said.
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