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Stroke: Walking exercise can ward off stroke and other diseases in older people

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Stroke exercise walking

Stroke can be averted with walking or any moderate exercise such as swimming, brisk walking, or running two to three hours a week, a study published in the journalNeurology has said. This also helps reduce the severity of strokes significantly. Researcher Katharina S Sunnerhagen said that while exercise benefits health in many ways, their research suggested that getting in a small amount of physical activity each week may have a big impact later by possibly reducing the severity of a stroke.

For the study, the team identified 925 people with an average age of 73 who had a stroke. Of the 481 people who were physically inactive, 354 or 73 per cent had a mild stroke. Of the 384 who engaged in light physical activity, 330 or 85 per cent had a mild stroke. Of the 59 people who engaged in moderate physical activity, 53 or 89 per cent had a mild stroke. People who engaged in light to moderate physical activity before their stroke were twice as likely to have a mild stroke rather than a moderate or severe stroke when compared to people who were physically inactive, the researchers said.

The study clearly shows that physical activity may have a protective effect on the brain. The simple exercise of walking helps the elderly in many other ways too:

1) A study by Boston University states that walking is linked to an increase in brain function and memory — the hallmark impairments in Alzheimer’s disease – in older adults. The finding showed that the age-related changes in memory performance and brain activity largely depend on an individual’s fitness level. Older adults who walked showed good cardiac fitness levels which improved their memory performance and increased brain activity patterns compared to their low fit peers.

2) The results of an analysis done by UCLA showed that increasing physical activity like walking was correlated with larger brain volumes in the frontal, temporal, and parietal lobes including the hippocampus. Individuals experiencing this brain benefit from increasing their physical activity experienced a 50 per cent reduction in their risk of Alzheimer’s dementia.

3) Lack of walking is one of the major risk factors of osteoarthritis, a type of arthritis which is more common in elderly people because of long-term wear and tear of cartilages at the end of bones forming joints, especially weight-bearing joints like knees, according to Dr Vishal Kaura Agarwal, Rheumatologist and Consultant Physician, PSRI Hospitals.

4) Maintaining or boosting one’s physical activity like walking after 65 can improve their heart’s electrical well-being and lower their heart attack risk. Harvard School of Public Health in Boston researchers found that people who walked more and faster and had more physically active leisure time had fewer irregular heart rhythms and greater heart rate variability than those who were less active.

5) Aerobic exercises like walking can help reduce inflammation of the joints, aches and pains and also increase the bone mineral density of the spine in postmenopausal women.