SAN DIEGO, Calif. — Washing dishes and other household chores can reduce the risk of death from cardiovascular disease by nearly two-thirds in older women, a new study has found. Researchers from the University of California, San Diego add that cooking, vacuuming, gardening and even showering can protect against the world’s number one killer.
The study finds that those who spent four hours a day performing ‘movements of daily living’ were 62% less likely to die from cardiovascular or coronary heart disease. Participants were also 43% less likely to develop either disease and 30% less likely to experience a stroke.
This was compared to peers who participated in less than two hours of daily life movements. The study authors explain that exercising muscles needs blood, so just being “active” improves circulation.
“The study demonstrates that all movements matter for disease prevention,” says first author Dr. Steve Nguyen in a Press release. “Spending more time in the movements of daily living, which includes a wide range of activities that we all do while standing and out of our chairs, has resulted in a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease.”
Physical activity doesn’t have to happen in a gym
Jogging or brisk walking isn’t the only way seniors can improve the health of their hearts and arteries, according to the UC San Diego team. The results come from an examination of 5,416 healthy women in the United States aged 63 to 97. Using AI (artificial intelligence), the team categorized every minute spent awake into one of five behaviors.
They included sitting, sitting in a vehicle, standing still, walking or running, and movements of daily living. The final category encompasses activities by standing and walking around a room to do things like get dressed, prepare meals, or garden.
Participants wore an accelerometer at the waist for up to seven days to accurately record common movements. Previous studies of light and moderate-to-vigorous physical activity have generally focused on running and brisk walking. Dr. Nguyen and his colleagues analyzed a variety of activities with different levels of intensity, such as cooking.
“Much of the movement done by older people is associated with the tasks of daily living, but it may not be considered physical activity,” adds lead author Professor Andrea LaCroix. “Understanding the benefits of movement in everyday life and adding it to physical activity guidelines can encourage more movement.”
The researchers followed the women for almost eight years, from May 2012 to February 2020. During the study, 616 were diagnosed with cardiovascular disease. Another 268 developed coronary heart disease, 253 had a stroke and 331 died.
“Describing the beneficial associations of physical activity in terms of common behaviors could help older adults accumulate physical activity,” the study authors write in the Journal of the American Heart Association.
“Our results are remarkable because a large part of the movements engaged in by older people is associated with tasks of daily living, which may not be considered as PA (physical activity) by the older people themselves or by questionnaires. .”
“All moves count”
Nguyen’s team says older people may find it difficult to engage in traditional exercises due to their frailty and uncertainty about other options. Movements of daily living (DLM) can be done at home, which might be more accessible than walking, for example, where environmental factors such as sidewalks can influence participation.
The study showed that higher amounts, summarized as “standing”, were linked to a lower risk of major cardiovascular events or death in older women. The results suggest that “every move counts” for prevention. The researchers call for further trials in other groups, including men, to confirm the results.
“Nevertheless, DLM should be promoted given its ubiquity in everyday life and its relatively low risk.” write the researchers in their study. “To determine the extent of potential health benefits of DLM, future research should test associations with other aging-related outcomes.”
“Health care providers and future national physical guidelines should consider describing the health benefits of PA in terms of common PA-causing behaviors, such as DLM, that may help older adults build up the PA.”
South West News Service writer Mark Waghorn contributed to this report.