Light Physical Activity Can Reduce Stroke Risk, Study Finds

If you’re like many Americans, a large portion of your day is spent seated. And for the most part sitting down doesn’t feel too bad; it may even be comfortable if you’re lucky enough to have one of those ergonomic office chairs.

But that’s the problem. While sitting in a chair may feel natural or normal, staying seated for hours each day can have some pretty severe health consequences, ranging from obesity and back pain to cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, and depression. To combat the negative repercussions of a sedentary lifestyle, doctors recommend that adults fit in approximately 150 minutes of physical activity per week.

New research shows that even just a few extra minutes of movement each day can help counteract the health risks of prolonged inactivity. The study, conducted by San Diego State University and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that engaging in light-intensity movement, especially for longer durations —gardening, walking through a shopping center, or strolling through the neighborhood, etc.—can help significantly reduce the risk of stroke.

The study monitored the levels of activity (and inactivity) in 7,600 adults ages 45 and older using a hip-mounted accelerometer, a motion detector that precisely recorded physical activity and the duration of sitting and inactivity. The data was then compared to the incidence of strokes in these participants over the span of seven years. Researchers found that individuals who remained sedentary for 13 hours per day had a 44% increased risk of suffering from stroke.

Steven Hooker, dean of San Diego State University’s College of Health and Human Services and lead researcher of the cohort study, noted in a recent interview that even while 10,000 steps per day might be out of reach, “getting up and doing even ten minutes of light to moderate physical activity a few times throughout the day is an effective strategy in reducing the likelihood of having a stroke.”

So, what’s the best way to start sitting less and moving more? The Healthy Monday Walk Your Way to Better Health email series helps users build a physical activity habit, including creative ideas for sneaking in steps, anywhere, anytime.  Want other ideas for staying active without having to exercise? The Healthy Monday Fit in Fitness Package offers a number of different practices to help individuals seamlessly incorporate more movement throughout the day. The 12-week series includes creative exercises, stretches, and low-intensity movements that can be performed in a variety of settings and environments. In the right context, any normal errand or activity can be a workout.