Research continues to pour in that exercise is crucial not only for disease prevention but also for significantly improving your prognosis if disease does occur. In the case of stroke, which is responsible for 1 out of every 20 deaths in the U.S.,1 exercise appears to be an even more important factor in outcomes than body fat.
Two-thirds of Americans have at least one of the leading risk factors for stroke, including being a smoker or having high blood pressure.
And while every year 185,000 Americans suffer from a second (or greater) stroke, 610,000 people have a stroke for the first time, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
While they’re most common in older adults, strokes can and do occur at any age, often without warning. They’re also a leading cause of serious long-term disability, with more than half of stroke victims suffering from reduced mobility as a result.2
Getting active now may be one of the best and most straightforward ways to slash your risk of this serious condition and protect your ability to function if stroke occurs.
Exercisers Retain More Independence After a Stroke
In a study of more than 18,000 adults aged 50 years and older, exercise proved to be a powerful indicator of function following a stroke.3 Less-active participants who suffered a stroke were 18 percent less likely to be able to perform basic self-care, such as bathing and eating, following a stroke.
They were also 16 percent less likely to be able to carry out complex activities like grocery shopping or money management three years after their strokes. Those who exercised vigorously at least three times a week were able to function better and more independently both before and after a stroke.4
It’s not the first time such a connection has been made. In 2008, a study published in Neurology similarly found that people who are physically active before a stroke have less severe problems and recover better compared to those who didn’t exercise prior to their stroke.5
Further, in 2012 Canadian researchers found that stroke patients who exercised were able to improve problems with their memory, thinking, language and judgment by close to 50 percent in just six months.
Notable improvements in attention, concentration, planning and organizing, as well as benefits to muscle strength and walking, were seen among stroke patients who exercised.