Older men who walked at least one to two hours each day compared with less than a half-hour per day had a reduced risk of stroke in a large population-based study. The findings were published Nov. 14 on the website of the American Heart Association journal Stroke.
The study included 3,435 British men ages 60-80 who did not have cardiovascular disease or heart failure. Data came from a larger British Regional Heart Study, sampled from one primary care center in each of 24 towns across Britain. In 1998-2000, participants completed questionnaires about various aspects of their walking and other physical activities. Nurses also conducted a range of traditional health tests such as blood pressure and measured novel risk factors such as inflammatory markers.
Researchers asked the study participants the distance walked each week and usual walking pace. They divided them into groups: those who spent zero-three hours a week walking; four-seven hours; eight-14 hours; 15-21 hours; and 22 or more hours walking per week. Researchers followed the men for the next 10 years and monitored them for new cases of stroke. During the follow-up, 195 first strokes occurred in the study group.
The researchers found men who walked eight-14 hours per week had about one-third lower risk of stroke than men who spent zero-three hours walking each week. The risk was about two-thirds lower for men who walked more than 22 hours a week. Of the 3,435 men, 42% walked for more than eight hours per week, and 9% walked for more than 22 hours a week.
Men who walked zero-three hours per week had 80 strokes per 10,000 person years, according to the study, and men who walked eight-14 hours per week had 55 strokes per 10,000 person years.
If you took 1,000 men who usually walk 8-14 hours per week and followed them for 10 years, on average they would have 55 strokes, compared with 80 for the group who only walk zero to three hours per week, Barbara Jefferis, PhD, study first author and senior research associate in the Department of Primary Care & Population Health, University College London, U.K., said in the release. The total time spent walking was more consistently protective against stroke than walking pace; overall it seemed that accumulating more time walking was most beneficial.
According to Jefferis, the findings suggest regular walking every week could be an important stroke prevention strategy for older adults.