Gardening could halve stroke patients’ chance of dying early

Regularly carrying out tasks in the garden or going for a walk could help stroke patients to live longer, a new study has found. Scientists at the University of Calgary in Canada have discovered that such activities can reduce the risk of dying early by half.

Those recovering from a stroke who exercised in these ways for at least three hours a week saw the benefit. Meanwhile, two hours of cycling had a similar effect, demonstrating how finding an activity that suits the individual can be beneficial.

There are in excess of 1.2 million survivors of strokes living in the UK, with 100,000 Brits suffering from one each year. Heart attacks and heart failure become an increased risk after a stroke, which often leads to high blood pressure.

While managing the condition can be helped through medication, lifestyle factors can also contribute to a good outcome. Exercise does not have to be vigorous but regular to make a difference, with the likes of gardening a good option.

The study demonstrated that stroke survivors who exercise enough can lower their risk of dying by as much as 54 per cent. Even the over-75s can improve their chances, as the activities saw a reduction of 32 per cent in this age group.

Dr Raed Joundi, author of the study, said: “Our results are exciting, because just three to four hours a week of walking was associated with big reductions in mortality. A better understanding of the role of physical activity in the health of people who survive stroke is needed to design better exercise therapies and public health campaigns.”

Some 895 stroke survivors were asked about the amount of time they spent doing various activities over a three-month period. They included gardening, walking, running, cycling and swimming.

While the number of patients in the study was small, the results were welcomed by the Stroke Association. It encourages people to partake in low-impact physical activity in the wake of a stroke to help them stay healthy and ward off negative effects.

Official guidance for adults recommends 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week, which can help to prevent a stroke in the first place. Reducing stress, alcohol consumption and giving up smoking also reduce the risks of a stroke and associated health conditions.

The scientists also found that the benefits of gentle exercise increased as the amount of time spent active went up. So, those who walked for six or seven hours a week had better outcomes, which could contribute to the argument that official guidelines should suggest more exercise.

Dr Joundi summarised: "Our results suggest getting a minimum amount of physical activity may reduce long-term mortality from any cause in stroke survivors."