These days, recommendations for the “right” amount of exercise are all over the place. And I’m sure it’s incredibly confusing.
But there’s one thing everyone can agree on: Exercise increases longevity and helps improve — or reverse — most health issues. Of course, in true American fashion, our society leans toward the belief that more is better.
And while that may be true in some cases, the latest research shows that just a little exercise actually goes a very long way where stroke risk is concerned.
Any exercise beats no exercise at all
A new study from Sweden looked at data from the Physical Activity Pre-Stroke Gothenburg cohort. Just under half of the participants were women, with an average age of 73.
Subjects self-reported their activity levels, on a scale of one to four. They scored themselves as one of the following:
1) Low: No physical activity
2) Light: Any activity (walking, housecleaning, etc.) totaling at least four hours weekly
3) Moderate: Regular light activity plus two to three hours of specific, dedicated workouts weekly
4) High: Hard physical training — similar to the rigorous training of competitive athletes
Results showed that stroke was significantly more severe in physically inactive subjects, when compared to subjects who got light or moderate exercise. And notably, there was no difference in outcome between the latter two. Meaning moderate activity didn’t offer any additional protection than light activity.
But here’s the important part: When compared to inactive subjects, adults who engaged even in light physical activity prior to a stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA) were more than twice as likely to suffer only a mild event, rather than a severe one.
Translation: A simple daily walk could mean the difference between recovery and disability… And possibly even life and death.
This is a pretty big deal since most other studies examining stroke severity have focused only on higher intensity exercise. This one, in contrast, looked at what I consider to be very attainable levels. And it found that easy activities anyone can do, like walking or bicycling, can have a major impact.
In other words — no gym membership? No problem. If you own a pair of comfy walking shoes, you’re still in business to protect your heart health.
Minimal investment… maximum returns
I live in a city where walking is a necessary part of life — there’s no getting around Manhattan otherwise. I consider it one of the premier perks of urban living. And studies like this just drive that point home.
But what makes this study even better news is that it shows you don’t have to walk everywhere you go in order to reap the benefits. A mere four hours per week of walking — or a simple half-hour stroll per day — can reduce the severity of a future stroke by a considerable margin.
That’s impressive by itself! But this is just one study in a growing pile that demonstrates the life-changing impact of regular walking.
In case you’ve forgotten, take a look at some other ways long-intensity exercise helps improve your longevity and risk of chronic disease:
- Mild intensity exercise like walking slams the brakes on cognitive decline.
- A simple walking program can improve symptoms of peripheral artery disease.
- Walking to work slashes your risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity.
- Older men who walk the most enjoy better physical and mental health.
- Regular walking can boost energy reduce fatigue in cancer patients.
The effects are pretty impressive. And again, that’s merely a handful of the research I’ve shared with you over the years.
So, what are you doing still sitting here reading this? Get up and go take a walk! Thirty minutes is all it takes. And you’d be hard pressed to find a better bang for your buck.