New study links doing housework to better memory and fewer falls among older adults
Doing housework is associated with improved memory, better attention span, and stronger legs, (which means fewer falls) in older adults, according to a recent study published in the journal BMJ Open.
Regular physical activity is good for maintaining optimal physical and mental health.
And among older adults, it curbs the risks of long-term medical conditions, as well as falls.
But around the world, physical activity levels are well below recommended weekly levels.
In fact, this has been the case for decades, especially in high-income countries.
Get out that housework checklist!
Because housekeeping involves physical activity, the researchers wanted to see whether doing various types of household chores could contribute to healthy aging and/or increase the physical and mental capacities of older adults in a wealthy country.
Their study included 489 randomly selected adults, aged between 21 and 90. All were living independently in a large residential complex in Singapore.
The participants were divided into two groups: a younger group of 21–64 year olds (249, with an average age of 44), and an older group of 65–90 year olds (240; average age of 75).
Participants answered questions about the intensity and frequency of household chores they regularly did, as well as how many other types of physical activity they engaged in.
Light housework included washing up, dusting, making the bed, hanging out the washing, ironing, tidying up, and cooking. Heavy household chores were defined as window cleaning, changing the bed, vacuuming, washing the floor, and activities such as painting/decorating.
After adjusting for other types of regular physical activity, the results showed that housework was associated with sharper mental abilities and better physical capacity — but only among the older age group.
Different types of housework have different effects
The intensity of the cleaning chores was associated with specific cognitive domains. Heavy housework, for example, led to increases in attention scores.
Light housework, on the other hand, mostly benefitted memory scores.
More frequent and intense housework was also linked to improved balance and coordination scores.
Prior studies have also suggested a link between aerobic exercise and heightened cognitive function.
Types of “light housework” included doing the dishes, dusting, making the bed, cleaning and hanging the laundry, ironing, and cooking meals.
“Heavy housework” chores included cleaning the windows, changing the sheets, vacuuming, mopping the floor, and DIY activities that involved for example sawing or painting.
Conclusion: get out that housework checklist!
This study suggests that “a combination of light and heavy housework is associated with higher cognitive function, specifically in attention and memory domains, among community-dwelling older adults.”
Moreover, the higher cognitive, physical and sensorimotor functions related to heavy housework activities might plausibly be associated with lower physiological fall risk among community-dwelling older adults.”
Bonus: how many calories does housework burn?
Does housework count as exercise? You bet it does!
A 2006 study conducted by researchers at the Univerity of Scranton found that your housework workout has a big effect on burning calories.
Take a look at the list below, and you’ll see that various types of housework can and do burn off those excess calories:
Household chores and how many calories they burn per hour
Shoveling snow by hand: 422
Pushing a lawnmower: 387
Scrubbing floors on hands & knees: 387
Raking leaves: 281
General house cleaning: 246
Caring for a child (e.g. dressing, feeding): 246
Food preparation & cooking: 176
Comparable types of exercise
Walking (4 mph): 281
Walking (3 mph): 246
Photo: by DepositPhotos
Originally published at https://www.psychnewsdaily.com on February 4, 2022.