Why housework is good for your health: Ironing, washing up and vacuuming can help over-65s improve their physical and mental strength… and could even protect against falls, research suggests
- A study found over-65s who do lots of housework have better physical strength
- Nearly 500 participants were quizzed about the frequency of household chores
- Pensioners who engaged in heavy housework had a 14% higher attention span
Doing the vacuuming, washing up and ironing can often seem like thankless tasks – but it turns out household chores might be the key to staying healthy in old age.
A study has found that over-65s who spend lots of time on housework have better physical strength, are mentally sharper and have greater protection against falls.
And the health benefits of housework remain regardless of people’s other recreational and physical activities, it showed.
A study has found that over-65s who spend lots of time on housework have better physical strength, are mentally sharper and have greater protection against falls (stock image)
Nearly 500 participants, aged between 21 and 90, were quizzed about the frequency of chores and other types of physical activity and given a ‘housework intensity’ score.
Light housework was defined as washing the dishes, dusting, making a bed, doing laundry, ironing, tidying up and cooking meals.
Heavy housework included window cleaning, changing bedding, vacuuming, washing or scrubbing the floor, and DIY.
Overall, a combination of light and heavy housework was ‘associated with higher cognitive function’ among over-65s, but not in younger adults.
Pensioners who engaged in more heavy housework had 14 per cent higher attention span scores and those who regularly performed light tasks tested 12 per cent better on memory tests.
Meanwhile, those who regularly performed the more physically demanding jobs around the house could stand up more quickly.
Pensioners who engaged in more heavy housework had 14% higher attention span scores and those who regularly performed light tasks tested 12% better on memory tests (stock image)
They also had better balance and co-ordination scores, suggesting housework can help to protect people from falls in old age – a common cause of hospitalisation.
The authors of the study, which was led by the University of Singapore, said more research was needed to establish a firm link between household jobs and healthy aging.
But they suggested that chores require mental sharpness and are a good indicator of being able to live independently.
Lead author Professor Shiou-Liang Wee told the British Medical Journal: ‘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.
‘Our study suggests that a combination of light and heavy housework is associated with higher cognitive function, specifically in attention and memory domains, among older adults.’
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