Walking, light tennis reduce women's stroke risk

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Researchers have found that women who took part in moderate exercise, such as walking briskly or playing tennis, experienced a significant reduction in risk of having a stroke.

And the best bet is to get moving now.

"The benefits of reducing risk of stroke were further observed among the group of women who had a sustained moderate level of physical activity over time," said Sophia Wang, the study's lead author and a professor at the Beckman Research Institute at the City of Hope.

It's hardly news that people of both sexes who exercise are healthier than those who do not. And the National Stroke Association has long recommended activity as a way to ward off strokes.

The researchers in the current study presented their findings Thursday at the American Stroke Association's international conference in San Diego. (The American Stroke Association, an offshoot of the American Heart Association, is separate from the National Stroke Association.)

Wang and her colleagues analyzed information from the 133,479 women in the California Teachers Study, looking at those who had strokes from 1996 through 2010. Those who said they were moderately active in the three years before enrolling in the study were 20 percent less likely to have strokes than the women who reported no activity.

More strenuous activity, such as running, didn't provide extra help, Wang said.

"Moderate activity such as brisk walking appeared to be ideal in this scenario," she said in a news release.

That moderate level of workout also partly offset the increased risk of stroke among post-menopausal women who took hormones.

Moderate activity includes golf, cycling on level streets, volleyball and recreational tennis. Strenuous activity includes swimming laps, aerobics, running, calisthenics, jogging, basketball, cycling on hills and racquetball.