DALLAS, TEXAS. There is considerable epidemiologic evidence that being physically fit reduces the risk of having a stroke. Most of the studies reaching this conclusion have been based on self-reported physical activity rather than on actual evaluation of physical fitness. Researchers at the Cooper Institute and the West Texas A & M University recently released the results of a 10-year study aimed at determining the risk of stroke as a function of physical fitness actually measured during a treadmill test.
The study involved 16,878 men between the ages of 40 and 87 years who entered the study group between
1971 and 1994. The men's cardiorespiratory fitness was determined through a maximal treadmill exercise
test. The men were divided into three groups based on their performance – the least fit group (bottom 20
per cent), the moderately fit (middle 40 per cent), and the most fit (highest 40 per cent). After an average 10
years of follow-up 32 stroke deaths had occurred among the 16,878 men. The researchers found that the
most fit men had a 68 per cent and the moderately fit men a 63 per cent lower risk of dying from a stroke
than did the least fit men even after correcting for other know risk factors such as smoking, alcohol
consumption, hypertension, diabetes, body mass index, and parental history of coronary heart disease. It is
interesting to note that the overall absolute risk of dying from a stroke within a 10-year period was only 0.2
per cent in this group.