The effects of a stroke are less harmful to people who regularly exercise, according to study findings published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry and reported on by MedicineNet.

Study researchers found that 50.5 percent of the participants who reported exercising one to three times a week before their strokes fared much better than their couch potato counterparts.

“The straightforward explanation is that if you are physically fit you can compensate better for the deficit caused by the stroke because you have more reserve,” said the study’s senior author, James Meschia, MD, professor of neurology at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida. “That may not be the whole picture, but it is probably much of it.”

But don’t think you have to overdo it with high-intensity activity. Set aside 20 minutes to one hour, three days a week, to exercise, suggests Meschia

Learn more about how to protect yourself from stroke here.