Keeping active and regular exercise can help people who have had a stroke live longer, new research has revealed.

The findings show that people who have had a stroke who walk or spend time gardening for at least three to four hours a week, or cycle for at least two to three hours a week – or the equivalent – could reduce their risk of early death by 54 per cent.

Younger stroke survivors under the age of 75 were found to benefit the most from regular exercise, with their risk of early death reduced by 80 per cent.

Researchers behind the findings have described them as “exciting”.

Study author Dr Raed A. Joundi, from the University of Calgary in Canada and member of the American Academy of Neurology, said: “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.

“Our results are exciting, because just three to four hours a week of walking was associated with big reductions in mortality, and that may be attainable for many community members with prior stroke. In addition, we found people achieved even greater benefit with walking six to seven hours per week. These results might have implications for guidelines for stroke survivors in the future.”

The study involved 895 people with an average age of 72 who had a stroke in the past and 97,805 people with an average age of 63 who had never had a stroke. They were followed for an average of four and a half years, with researchers evaluating their weekly physical activity through questions about their activities.

For people who had a stroke in the past, 15% who exercised at least the equivalent of three to four hours of walking every week died during follow up, compared to 33% who did not exercise that minimum amount.

People with previous stroke over the age of 75 who exercised the minimum amount were 32% less likely to die during follow-up to the study.

Dr Joundi added: “Our results suggest that getting a minimum amount of physical activity may reduce long-term mortality from any cause in stroke survivors. 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.”

The study has been published in the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, Neurology.

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