If your idea of relaxation is a stroll around the block, you could also be doing your body a favor: A new study links weekly walks with a decreased risk of stroke in women.
"What women can take away from this is there is something that you can do that is very simple, very easy and not too time consuming to protect your cardiovascular health status, and that is walking," Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, Lenox Hill Hospital's director of women and heart disease, who was not involved in the study, told CBS News.
The study was based on people from Spain who participated in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition. The study included 13,576 men and 19,416 women, who were all between the ages of 29 and 69. They started the study between 1992 and 1996, and finished it in 2006. Reuters pointed out that many of the people in the study were blood donors, which is indicative that they were in good health (meaning the results of the study may not necessarily apply to the general population, which isn't guaranteed to be in good health).
Researchers had the participants report how many hours a week they spent exercising, as well as their medical history, lifestyles and diet. Over the average 12 years of follow-up, they found that 210 transient ischemic attacks and 442 stroke cases occurred.
The researchers found that walking for at least three-and-a-half hours a week was associated with a lower risk of stroke for women compared with those who didn't report regularly walking. However, no link was found between men's stroke risk and walking.
"Increasing time dedicated to activities such as walking would be expected to help to reduce the stroke burden in women," the researchers wrote in the study, which appeared in the journal Stroke.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adults are recommended to do at least 150 minutes (two-and-a-half hours) of moderate exercise, which includes brisk walking, and muscle strengthening exercises each week.
Previously, a study in the same journal published in 2010 showed that the pace at which you walk also matters for stroke risk. The findings, conducted by Harvard researchers, showed that walking at a pace of three miles an hour for at least two hours a week was linked with a lower stroke risk for women, compared with non-walkers.
"Since the increase in computerization and mechanization has resulted in ever-increasing numbers of people being sedentary for most of their working time, adding short time exercise during working breaks or adding walking activity during work time is recommended," the researcher of that study, Gang Hu, Ph.D., said in a statement.