Moderate-to-heavy exercise can protect men from strokes, but light exercise does not have the same effect, a study has shown.
The study involved 3,298 Americans with an average age of 69. Over a nine-year period 238 strokes occurred among the whole group. Of the total number of participants, 41% reported that they took no exercise. Around a fifth regularly engaged in moderate-to-heavy activity.
Men who took part in moderate-to-heavy intensity activies such as jogging, swimming or tennis were 63% less likely to suffer a stroke than people taking no exercise. Those who engaged in vigorous exercise had a stroke risk of 2.75% compared with a 4.6% risk for non-active individuals.
Unlike some other studies, the research also showed no benefit from light intensity physical pursuits, such as playing golf, walking or bowling.
Study leader Dr Joshua Willey, from Columbia University, New York, said: “Taking part in moderate-to-heavy intensity physical activity may be an important factor in preventing stroke.
“A large percentage of the participants were not taking part in any physical activities. This may be true of many elderly people who live in cities. Identifying ways to improve physical activity among these people may be a key goal for public health,” he said.
Exercise of any type had no impact on women’s risk of stroke.
The findings were published in the journal Neurology.