Intended for healthcare professionals

Research Article

Physical activity and stroke in British middle aged men.

British Medical Journal 1992; 304 doi: (Published 07 March 1992) Cite this as: British Medical Journal 1992;304:597
  1. G. Wannamethee,
  2. A. G. Shaper
  1. Department of Public Health and Primary Care, Royal Free Hospital School of Medicine, London.


    OBJECTIVES--To assess the relation between physical activity and stroke and to determine the overall benefit of physical activity for all major cardiovascular events. DESIGN--Prospective study of a cohort of men followed up for 9.5 years. SETTING--General practices in 24 towns in England, Wales, and Scotland (British regional heart study). SUBJECTS--7735 men aged 40-59 at screening, selected at random from one general practice in each of 24 towns. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES--Fatal and non-fatal strokes and heart attacks. RESULTS--128 major strokes (fatal and non-fatal) occurred. Physical activity was inversely associated with risk of stroke independent of coronary risk factors, heavy drinking, and pre-existing ischaemic heart disease or stroke (relative risk 1.0 for inactivity, 0.6 moderate activity, and 0.3 vigorous activity; test for trend p = 0.008). The association remained after excluding men reporting regular sporting (vigorous) activity. However, vigorous physical activity was associated with a marginally significant increased risk of heart attack compared with moderate or moderately vigorous activity in men with no pre-existing ischaemic heart disease or stroke (relative risk 1.6%; 95% confidence interval 0.96 to 2.8). In men with symptomatic ischaemic heart disease or stroke those doing moderately vigorous or vigorous activity had a risk of heart attack slightly higher than that in inactive men (relative risk = 1.6; 0.8 to 3.3). CONCLUSIONS--Moderate physical activity significantly reduces the risk of stroke and heart attacks in men both with and without pre-existing ischaemic heart disease. More vigorous activity did not confer any further protection. Moderate activity, such as frequent walking and recreational activity or weekly sporting activity, should be encouraged without restriction.