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Fighting Stroke and Heart Attack With Regular Exercise

Stroke and heart attack are two major causes of death in Lebanon. Regular physical exercise is one of the most important elements of a healthy lifestyle. This isn’t an article about weekly marathons or lifetime gym memberships, but a reminder that regular exercise like walking, jogging, hiking, and swimming can keep you alive longer. 

Many people who live in the Chouf in Lebanon exercise to lose weight or grow muscle, while others exercise to relieve stress or improve psychological well-being. Exercise is well known to have protective effects against many diseases and conditions. For example, stroke and heart attack are two serious diseases that can be prevented with regular exercise. 

Stroke is caused when the blood supply to the brain is interrupted by a clot or tear in a blood vessel. This can be due to the occlusion of the arteries that supply blood to the brain, or pressure on brain cells as a consequence of ruptured and bleeding vessels. This condition will lead to the death of brain cells in specific areas due to the interruption of the supply of oxygen and nutrients. A heart attack is caused by the disruption of blood supply to the heart muscle, followed by irreversible damage to the heart muscle. 

Numerous studies have shown a direct association between low levels of physical activity and incidence of several diseases. But the specifics about how much or how often one should exercise are not well known by the public. Here are the most common questions, along with answers, about exercise frequency and duration.

How often should you exercise?

In a recently published study conducted in South Korea (Kim et al., 2019), more than 250,000 adult participants were surveyed over 13 years and categorized according to the frequency of their regular sweat-inducing exercise. The study compared the incidence of many diseases including stroke and heart attack in each category of exercise frequency compared to individuals who did not exercise. Kim and colleagues (2019) reported that individuals who exercised 3 to 4 times per week were the most capable of reducing their risk of heart attacks not to mention being the second best group able to reduce the risk of stroke. 

Does exercising more than 4 times per week decrease the risk of stroke and heart attack?

Although individuals who exercised 5 to 6 times per week were the most capable of reducing the risk of stroke, these individuals were less able to reduce heart attacks than those who exercised once or twice per week (Kim et al., 2019). Furthermore, Kim and colleagues (2019) showed that individuals who exercised daily were less capable of reducing the incidence of stroke and heart attack than those who exercised only once or twice per week! 

How long should you exercise?

The duration of exercise per week depends entirely on the intensity of the exercise you wish to perform. Adults should perform at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise per week to prevent diseases and be healthy (American Heart Association Recommendations for Physical Activity in Adults and Kids n.d.). Moderate exercise includes brisk walking, light jogging, dancing, recreational swimming, and hiking. Vigorous exercise includes running, bicycling, climbing mountains, and vigorous calisthenics (like push-ups and pull-ups).

To protect yourself against stroke and heart attack: choose a specific type of exercise that you enjoy, ask your physician if necessary, and practice this exercise moderately, or about 3 to 4 times per week.


1. American Heart Association Recommendations for Physical Activity in Adults and Kids N.d. Www.Heart.Org. , accessed September 8, 2019.

2. Kim, Youngwon, Stephen Sharp, Semi Hwang, and Sun Ha Jee  2019 Exercise and Incidence of Myocardial Infarction, Stroke, Hypertension, Type 2 Diabetes and Site-Specific Cancers: Prospective Cohort Study of 257 854 Adults in South Korea. BMJ Open 9(3). , accessed August 24, 2019.

About Alaa Abou Khzam

Alaa Abou Khzam is a physical therapy clinician in the Chouf, Lebanon. He conducts research in physical rehabilitation and is a contributing writer on health topics.

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