Moderate-to-high-intensity exercise such as jogging, swimming or tennis may help reduce stroke risk in older men but not in women, researchers report.

Stroke is the leading cause of disability in the United States and the third leading cause of death. Ischemic stroke, the leading type of stroke, is caused by a blockage in a blood vessel.

The Study

The nine-year study followed nearly 3,300 men and women, average age 69, who lived in New York City. During that time, there were 238 strokes among the participants. At the start of the study, 20% of the participants said they did regular moderate-to-high-intensity exercise, while 41% said they did no physical activity.

Men who did moderate-to-high-intensity exercise were 63% less likely to have a stroke than people who didn't exercise. Over five years, the baseline risk of ischemic stroke for all study participants was 4.3%—2.7% for those who did moderate-to-high-intensity exercise and 4.6% for those who didn't exercise.

The study was published in an issue of the journal Neurology.


"Taking part in moderate-to-heavy-intensity physical activity may be an important factor for preventing stroke," said study author Joshua Z. Willey, MD, of Columbia University Medical Center and New York-Presbyterian Hospital.

"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," Dr. Willey said.

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