Barbara Jefferis, PhD, of University College London UK presented data in the journal Stroke that indicated that older men who added a long walk to their daily routine significantly reduced their risk of having a stroke. The association was independent of activity level or walking pace. Men who walked 8 – 14 hours per week had about a one third lower risk of stroke compared to men who walked no more than three hours per week or at all. The risk was about 2/3 lower for men who walked more than 22 hours per week. Walking is recognized to be the predominant form of physical activity in older adults and its impact in reducing stroke risk is important to understand.
The study looked at 3,435 men followed over a ten year period. The lead researcher said there is no reason to believe that the protective effect does not apply to women as well.
This is one of several studies published over the last few months that extol the benefits of modest age related exercise to preserve function and independence. We have seen the benefits of an after dinner walk on blood sugar levels documented in recent studies. In a recent British Medical Journal article (BMJ 2013, 347:f5555) researchers reviewing 60 research trials conclude that exercise benefits patients with arthritis rather than being sedentary. We have seen other studies linking seniors with active leisure activity life style exhibiting improved cognitive function compared to seniors with a more sedentary leisure life style.
From a doctor’s perspective the advice is simple. Find something you enjoy doing that is active and aerobic such as walking, running, cycling, swimming, dancing, roller skating or roller blading and engage in this activity regularly to protect your health and independence.
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