Senior walking outside

Thirty minutes a day of walking or gardening is enough to cut the mortality risk in half for stroke survivors, a new study finds.

Study participants included two groups of older adults, one of nearly 900 people who had experienced a prior stroke, and more than 97,000 who had never had a stroke. Investigators determined average weekly self-reported physical activity, and followed the participants’ health outcomes for an average of four and a half years.

In that time stroke survivors died from any cause compared to their peers with no stroke (15% vs. 6%). But those who exercised at least the equivalent of three to four hours of walking each week had a 15% death rate during follow-up when compared to 33% of those who did not exercise that amount, the researchers said. 

Stroke survivors aged 75 years and younger had the largest reduction in mortality risk tied to exercise. In that group, participants who met the minimum level of physical activity were about 80% less likely to die during study follow-up than those who did not. But there was still a significant benefit for participants over 75 years of age who exercised the minimum amount. They were 32% less likely to die when compared to their peers who did not meet the equivalent of three to four hours of weekly walking.

“Our results suggest that getting a minimum amount of physical activity may reduce long-term mortality from any cause in stroke survivors,” Raed A. Joundi, M.D., Ph.D., of the University of Calgary in Canada, wrote. “We should particularly emphasize this to stroke survivors who are younger in age, as they may gain the greatest health benefits from walking just thirty minutes each day.”

Perhaps not surprisingly, participants achieved even greater benefits when they walked six to seven hours per week.

“A better understanding of the role of physical activity in the health of people who survive stroke is needed to design better exercise therapies and public health campaigns so we can help these individuals live longer,” Joundi and colleagues concluded.

The study was published in the journal Neurology.