In all, nearly 33,000 men and women answered a physical activity questionnaire given once in the mid-1990s as part of a larger European cancer project. For their study, Huerta and his team divided participants by gender, exercise type and total time spent exercising each week.
The authors, who published their findings in the journal Stroke, checked in with participants periodically to record any strokes. During the 12-year follow-up period, a total of 442 strokes occurred among the men and women.
The results for women who were regular walkers translated to a 43 percent reduction in stroke risk compared to the inactive group, Huerta said.
There was no reduction seen for men based on exercise type or frequency, however.
Despite a recent dip in strokes attributed to better blood pressure control and anti-smoking campaigns, the World Health Organization (WHO) predicts that stroke cases will increase as the global population continues to grow older.
Guidelines set by the WHO and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend at least 150 minutes – or two-and-a-half hours – of moderate exercise such as brisk walking each week.