Intensifying physical activity reduces the risk of stroke

Ten thousand steps and more. We know, and we repeat it often in this column, physical inactivity is a scourge of public health. It exposes to a risk of non-communicable diseases and premature mortality, warns the World Health Organization (WHO), which estimates that people who sit too long have a risk of death increased by 20% to 30% compared to to those who are sufficiently active.

A study has just shown that being sedentary, coupled with a lack of physical activity – the two often go hand in hand – increases the risk of stroke. The more intense the activity, the lower the risk.

In France, no less than 150,000 people are affected by a stroke each year, one every 4 minutes, of which 30,000 die. “Long described as a pathology specific to the elderly, strokes affect more and more middle-aged adults (especially women under 55) with changes in lifestyle (in particular the increase in physical inactivity and sedentary lifestyle) and the development of cardiovascular risk factors with tobacco smoking in the forefront”indicated the High Authority for Health (HAS) at the end of 2018.

In France, 150,000 people are affected by a stroke each year, or one every 4 minutes.

Let’s get back to these works. A team of researchers from the State University of San Diego (California, United States) analyzed data from 7,607 adults, 63 years of average age, from May 2009 to January 2013, without vascular history. Accelerometers worn on the hip made it possible to follow the frequency of their movements, their intensity, for a week. The researchers measured sedentary time, light physical activity (walking around the house), and more vigorous activity such as brisk walking or cycling. The volunteers had to wear it at least 16 hours a day. Results, seven years later: people who spent more than 13 of 16 hours sedentary had a 44% higher risk of stroke than those who spent less than 11.8 hours sitting. Worse, each additional hour per day spent sitting increased the risk of stroke by 14%.

A specific effect

Conversely, short periods of regular physical activity were beneficial, indicates the study. “One of its strengths is, due to the number of people, to bring out the specific effect of physical activity, all other things being equal for other risk factors for stroke such as diabetes, arterial hypertension, obesity, tobacco…”, emphasizes Professor Mathieu Zuber, head of the neurology department at Saint-Joseph hospital in Paris.

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