For stroke survivors, walking is the best way to improve quality of life

An estimated 795,000 people in the United States suffer a stroke each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and those who survive the incident often face a lengthy road to recovery that can sometimes require long term care. But new research suggests that working on increasing physical activity levels - even if it's just a 30-minute walk - can help stroke survivors improve their quality of life.

The findings were published in the journal Stroke and relied on an analysis of more than 120 people who had a stroke between six months and two years before the study. One group of participants was instructed to walk three times a week over the course of the study, while the other received therapeutic massages. After three months, researchers found that the walking group enjoyed much greater mobility and better cardiovascular health.

"Walking is a great way to get active after a stroke," said Dr. Carron Gordon, the study's lead author. "It's familiar, inexpensive, and it's something people could very easily get into."

Experts say the results are particularly encouraging given that stroke survivors don't have to go out of their way to reap the benefits of walking. Many of them reached the 30-minute mark by walking around the neighborhood or even their home.

It should come as no surprise that an exercise as simple as walking could offer benefits to stroke victims, given its many other advantages. Previous studies, including one from the University of Pittsburgh, the University of Illinois, Rice University and Ohio State University found that a brisk walk may be the key to keeping your memory sharp later in life.