Want to stay young? Household chores can iron out your ailments and polish up the mind

Older adults who regularly perform household chores have better memory and attention span than those who shirk their domestic duties, new research has shown. 

Housework was also found to be linked to superior leg strength in people over 65 and therefore reduces the risk of a person suffering a fall. 

Experts in Singapore wanted to assess whether chores contributed towards healthy ageing, so they examined data on almost 500 people aged between 21 and 90.

A range of analysis 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 quizzed about the intensity and frequency of household chores, as well as other types of physical activity.

Only around a third of under-65s and just under half of those in the older age group met recommended physical activity levels from recreational activities alone.

But around two thirds – 61 per cent of adults aged 64 and younger, and 66 per cent of older adults – met the targets exclusively through housework.

Overall, they found that a combination of light and heavy housework was “associated with higher cognitive function” among older adults, but not younger adults.

Older adults who did more heavy housework had 14 per cent higher attention span scores, while those who regularly performed light duties performed better on memory tests than the laziest individuals.

Light housework includes washing the dishes, dusting, making the bed, doing the laundry, hanging out the laundry, ironing, tidying up and cooking meals. Heavy housework includes window cleaning, changing beddings, beating the mat, vacuuming, washing or scrubbing the floor, and chores involving sawing, repair work or painting. 

“Our 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,” the researchers wrote in their paper, published in BMJ Open. 

“These results collectively suggest that 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.”

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