When was the last time you did anything that got your heart rate up? If your answer was drinking a double espresso this afternoon or climbing up a few stairs, you might want to consider easing into an exercise routine.

The University of Alabama at Birmingham conducted a study, analyzing data from 27,000 American adults ages 45 and older for over five years. These subjects were placed into categories based on the amount of exercise they do. Vigorously active people exercised more than four times a week, moderately active people exercised one to three times, and any amount less than that counted as “inactive.”

The research findings  showed that inactive adults has a 20 percent higher chance of a stroke and vigorous exercisers were less likely to have stroke or a mini stroke. While many other studies have linked reduced stroke risk to exercise, the University of Alabama at Birmingham study is unique in that it followed such a diverse group of people for such a long time. This gives more weight to its findings than other more limited studies, so that it can more verifiably conclude that exercise is directly related to stroke prevention.

Intense physical activity directly reduces stroke risk by improving blood vessel health. Somewhat more indirectly, it also helps with obesity which is another stroke-related factor.  Regular physical activity also lessens the impact of “traditional risk factors” like hypertension and diabetes, according to the senior study author, Dr. Virginia Howard, professor of epidemiology.

These results were very clear in how the men in the study were affected, but not quite so obvious for the women. It is possible that more moderate exercise, like walking, is better for women, but another study will have to be done to find out if there is more to that speculation.

Read the entire article here: Regular vigorous exercise may cut stroke risk, particularly in men: study