Fitness, Stroke Risk and Men

There are plenty of reasons to stay physically active; for starters, you’ll likely look better, and there’s a good chance you’ll feel better than your sedentary friends as well. For men, there may be yet another reason to lead an active life ‒ a lower risk of stroke.

A Long Term Project

This report was conducted by researchers from Oslo University, and surveyed over 2,000 men for a period of two decades. The participants enrolled in the study between the years 1972 to 1975; at the time, the men’s ages ranged from 40 to 59. At the beginning of the report, each participant underwent an exercise test and had his heart rate and blood pressure measured. Seven years later, the subjects went through a second round of cardiorespiratory fitness testing. 

In total, the the men were tracked for a 24 year period.

Becoming Fit (or Unfit)

The comparison between the initial fitness tests and the seven year follow-up yielded the following data:

  • About 39% percent of the men “remained fit,” meaning that they began the study at an average fitness level and remained so seven years later.
  • The same amount (39%) of the subjects “remained unfit.” In other words, they were in below-average physical condition at the initial evaluation, and were in the same shape during the second round of testing.
  • Over the seven year period between testing, 11 percent of subjects went from “”became unfit,” while another 11 percent “became fit.” 

A total of 199 volunteers suffered stroke. Men who “became unfit” over the course of the study were found to have the highest stroke risk; in fact, these men were twice as likely to experience stroke as men who stayed physically healthy through the entire study period. There was also good news for the subjects who improved their physical condition during the study; compared to those who “remained unfit,” this group saw their stroke risk sliced in half. 

In an interview with Reuters Health, senior author Dr. Erik Prestgaard noted that “You would expect that fitness would reduce the risk of stroke, but we were surprised by the large reduction.” The Oslo University Professor further stated that “each small improvement in fitness helped” with regards to lowering stroke risk.

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