Physical activity reduces stroke risk

Family physicians have a major responsibility to their patients to help them promote their general health, both physical and mental. Patients tend to require more frequent visits as they age, giving multiple possibilities for physicians to apply the latest medical research to promote patients’ well-being. In the past several years, research has shown physical activity and fitness to be major determinants of health. As recommended by the Exercise Is Medicine™ (EIM) initiative, exercise needs to be established as a vital sign and assessed at all doctor’s visits. In our recent study, we found a strong inverse relationship between cardiorespiratory fitness and incident stroke. In fact, there was a 60% lower stroke incidence in the high-fitness group compared with the low-fitness group. We know from prior studies that individuals can improve fitness by participating in regular physical activity. Numerous studies provide strong evidence that physical activity and fitness protect against numerous health problems. It is unlikely that there will ever be a pill that provides the multiple benefits of regular physical activity.


Even with the current EIM program, the U.S. Physical Activity Plan, the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, and the First Lady’s Let’s Move!initiative, there is still doubt in the physician community that patients will respond to their counseling to increase physical activity. A call to action must be sustained to develop behavior change strategies, to build the infrastructure for program delivery, and to continue the research needed to make these initiatives a reality. The “exercise prescription” can succeed, but only with the collaboration of many interdisciplinary partnerships. We all need to promote the basic recommendation from the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines , which is to help adults accumulate, in bouts of 10 minutes or longer, at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity per week. This can start with the ACSM community. See how you can get involved in EIM . All members and other professionals affiliated with ACSM can help get more people more active, and thereby improve their health. 

Active Voice: Physical Activity Reduces Stroke Risk: Research Bolsters EIM
by Steven N. Blair, PED, FACSM and John C. Sieverdes, MS

Active Voice is a column by ACSM experts in science, medicine and allied health. The viewpoints expressed do not necessarily reflect positions or policies of ACSM. NOTE: The research discussed in the following feature was presented at the 57th ACSM Annual Meeting June 2-5, 2010.

John C. Sieverdes, MS, is a doctoral student in the Department of Exercise Science, University of South Carolina at Columbia. His research focus involves strength, fitness, and physical activity-related strategies to prevent chronic diseases and using technology in behavioral change strategies to increase physical activity and fitness. John is a graduate student member of ACSM.

Steven N. Blair, PED, FACSM, is a professor in the Department of Exercise Science and Epidemiology/Biostatistics in the Arnold School of Public Health, University of South Carolina, Columbia. His research focuses on physical activity, fitness and health outcomes. He is a Past President of ACSM.

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