No one loves to do housework, but new research shows the benefits that it may hold, including sharper memory, better leg strength, greater attention span, and greater protection against falls. The study published in the journal BMJ Open found that housework can be a great form of physical activity in older adults.
Regular physical activity is critical for seniors in maintaining their physical and mental health. However, global monitoring data indicate that physical activity is well below the recommended weekly levels, increasing the risk of long-term conditions, falls, immobility, dependency, and mortality.
Researchers decided to examine how housework could affect their lives when looking at different types of physical activity for older adults. They realized that housework involves physical activity, which is an indicator of the ability to live independently. They wanted to explore if household chores could contribute to healthy aging and boost cognitive health and physical health.
The study included 489 adults aged between 21 and 90. All participants had fewer than five underlying conditions and no cognitive issues at the start of the study. They were all living independently in one large residential town in Singapore and were able to carry out routine daily tasks.
Participants were divided into two age groups: 21-64-year-olds classified as ‘younger,’ and 65-90-year-olds classified as ‘older.’ Walking speed and sitting-to-stand speed from a chair were used to assess physical activity. Cognitive tests were used to assess mental agility and physiological factors linked to falls.
Many of the participants did not meet the recommended physical activity quota. However, they were able to make up for it through housework. After adjusting for other types of regular physical activity, researchers found that housework was associated with sharper mental abilities and better physical capacity.
Only Among Older Adults
These results were only found among the older age group. Cognitive scores were 8% and 5% higher in those doing high volumes of housework compared to those in the low volume groups. Similarly, balance and coordination scores were 8% and 23% faster, which is great for fall protection.
As this is only an observational study, it cannot establish cause. However, researchers point to previous studies indicating a link between aerobic exercise and improved cognitive function. As more studies are done, the relationship can be better known between physical activity, including housework, a sharper memory, and the prevention of falls.