Physical fitness at almost any age has been shown to be good for weight control, bone and muscle strength, mood and mental health, blood pressure, heart rate and more.

Might being fit in middle age also make a stroke less likely later in life?

This study

The researchers analyzed data on 19,815 generally healthy adults, most in their late 40s to early 50s, whose cardiorespiratory fitness was assessed by treadmill and other tests. After turning 65, 805 people were hospitalized with a stroke at some point, men more so than women.

The more physically fit a participant had been at the start of the study, the less likely that person was to have had a stroke. The chances of having a stroke were nearly 40 percent less among those who had been deemed the most fit at midlife, compared with people who had been the least fit.

Who may be affected

Adults who live at least into their mid-60s. Although a stroke can occur at any age, risk increases as people get older. Strokes occur when the brain does not get enough blood, either because a clot blocks blood flow or a blood vessel ruptures in or near the brain. Someone in the United States has a stroke about once every 40 seconds. Blacks are nearly twice as likely to have a stroke as are whites.

(iStock)
Caveats

Nearly all participants were white. The study did not track any changes in physical fitness after the initial assessment.

Find this study

Online June 9 in Stroke (stroke.ahajournals.org; click on “Publish Ahead of Print — Stroke ASAP”)

Learn more

Information on stroke can be found at nhlbi.nih.gov/health and www.familydoctor.org.

The research described in Quick Study comes from credible, peer-reviewed journals. Nonetheless, conclusive evidence about a treatment's effectiveness is rarely found in a single study. Anyone considering changing or beginning treatment of any kind should consult with a physician.