Older people who regularly perform household chores have better memory and attention spans, according to new research than those who shy away from their chores.
Housework is also linked to increased leg strength in people over 65 and therefore reduces the risk of falling.
Experts in Singapore wanted to assess whether household chores contributed to healthy aging. So they looked at data from nearly 500 people between the ages of 21 and 90.
A range of analyzes such as walking speed, sit-to-stand speed from a chair, cognitive assessments, and memory tests were performed on each person.
Housework associated with “higher cognitive function”
Participants were asked about the intensity and frequency of household chores, as well as other types of physical activity.
Only about a third of those under 65 and just under half of older people achieved recommended levels of physical activity from recreational activities alone.
But about two-thirds – 61% of adults aged 64 and under and 66% of older adults – achieved goals exclusively through housework.
Overall, they found that a combination of light and heavy housework was “associated with higher cognitive function” in older adults, but not in young adults.
Older adults who performed heavier housework had 14 percent higher attention span scores, while those who regularly performed light tasks performed better on memory tests than the laziest individuals.
Light housework includes washing dishes, dusting, making bed, doing laundry, hanging out clothes, ironing, tidying up and preparing meals. Heavy housework includes cleaning windows, changing bedding, carpet, vacuuming, washing or scrubbing the floor, and household chores involving sawing, repairing or painting.
“Our study suggests that a combination of light and heavy housework is associated with higher cognitive function, particularly in the areas of attention and memory, in older people living in the community,” wrote the researchers in their article, published in BMJ Open.
“These results collectively suggest that the higher cognitive, physical and sensorimotor functions associated with heavy household activities could be plausibly associated with a lower risk of physiological fall in older people living in the community.”