According to a new study published in the American Heart Association journal Stroke, walking may decrease the risk of stroke in seniors. Senior fitness plays an important role in preventing disease and memory care, but for the first time, it has been shown that the length of exercise is more important than intensity.
"Our findings suggest that regular walking each week could be an important part of stroke prevention strategies in older people," said study author Barbara Jeffries.
A common fear among seniors about exercise is the notion that it can be easy to be inured while doing physical activity. Walking has little risk compared to other high-intensity exercises and can be taken up at any point in life.
The study found that it mattered less about how fast a person was walking, but it mattered more about how long they walked for. Men who walked an average of seven hours per week reduced their risk of stroke compared to men who walked up to three hours per week.
"The total time spent walking was more consistently protective against stroke than walking pace; overall it seemed that accumulating more time walking was most beneficial," said Jeffries.
In addition to a lower risk of stroke, walking had a positive effect on blood pressure. Those who walked longer tended to have lower blood pressure and lower resting heart rates, both signs of good health.
While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that seniors get about two-and-a-half hours of exercise per week, the walking study observed men who walked up to 22 hours each week. At 10 times more than the recommended minimum, men who walked 22 hours per week reduced their risk of stroke by two-thirds. Those in the next category, who walked between eight and 14 hours per week, reduced their risk by one-third.
While it may not be possible for everyone to get outside and walk for 22 hours every week, getting in a walk everyday is a good way to start. To reduce your risk of stroke and live a longer, healthier life, grab a friend or family member and walk around the neighborhood. While the study showed that distance was more important than the pace or intensity of walking, regular walking of any length can still provide health benefits.