Brisk walking can reduce risk of stroke

As the warm weather approaches, lace up your running shoes and head out for a walk. It will not only lift your spirits but it can help prevent stroke.

Recent research found that women who walk two or more hours per week or who walk at a brisk pace can significantly reduce their risk of suffering a stroke.

A new study, from the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, which will be published in the June issue of Stroke, found that:

  • Women who walked at a pace of three miles per hour or faster had a 37% lower risk of having any type of stroke
  • Women who walked two or more hours per week had a 30% reduced risk of stroke

“Stroke is one of the major causes of death and disability in Canada,” says Melissa Turzanski, Nurse Clinician in the Stroke Clinic at Baycrest. “One modifiable behaviour that can help decrease stroke risk, as well as cardiovascular disease, is physical activity and exercise. Walking is a wonderful way of getting physical activity into your life and it is often a forgotten form.”

“Many people think they need to go to the gym and exert all their energy on a fancy machine when all the while they could have put on their running shoes and headed outdoors for a good brisk walk. In the winter, try walking on a treadmill or mall walking to get your exercise.”

The study followed 40,000 women for close to 12 years. The average age was 54. The study found that women who were most active were 17% less likely to have any type of stroke than the least active women.

Although this study followed only women, walking is a good way for men to stay active as well, adds Turzanski.

A pedometer (step counter) is a handy tool to measure your walking distance, speed and number of steps. Moderately priced pedometers can be purchased at sports stores or on-line and easily clip onto waist bands.

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