Studies show that household chores can improve sharp memory and leg strength – Times of India

LONDON: Older adults who do housework may have sharper memories, sharper concentrations, better leg strength and more protection against falls, a new study has found.

The results of the study were published in the open-access journal BMJ Open.



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The results were independent of other regular recreational and workplace physical activity and active commuting. Regular physical activity is good for maintaining optimal physical and mental health. And in older adults, it reduces the risk of long-term condition, collapse, stagnation, dependence and death.


Yet data from global observations indicate that in 2016, physical activity was much lower than recommended weekly levels, and less than a decade later, people in high-income countries are twice as likely to have couch potatoes as in low-income countries.

Considering that physical activity is associated with housework and is an indicator of ability to survive independently, the researchers wanted to explore whether housework can contribute to healthy aging and increase physical and mental well-being among older adults in a rich country.

They included 489 randomly selected adults between the ages of 21 and 90, of whom less than 5 had an underlying condition and no cognitive impairment. All were living independently in a large residential city in Singapore and were able to perform daily routine tasks.


Participants were divided into two age bands: 21-64 year olds (249; average age 44), classified as ‘junior’; And 65-90 year olds (240; average age 75), classified as ‘elderly’.

Walking from the chair (gait) and standing from sitting (standing strength and risk of falling) were used to assess physical fitness. Legitimate experiments were used to evaluate the physiological factors associated with mental activity (short and delayed memory, visceral ability, language and attention span) and fall.

Participants were asked about the intensity and frequency of household chores that they do regularly, as well as how many types of physical activity they were engaged in.


Light households include washing, dusting, making the bed, washing, ironing, tidying up and cooking. Heavy housework was defined as activities such as cleaning windows, changing beds, vacuuming, washing floors, and painting / decorating.

Intensity of homework was measured in metabolic equivalent tasks (METs). These are equal to the amount of energy (calories) consumed per minute of physical activity. 2.5 a MET was allocated for light housework; A MET of 4 was assigned for heavy housework.

Approximately one-third (36 percent; 90) of the younger group and only half (48 percent; 116) of the adults met the quota of recommended physical activity from recreational physical activity only.


But about two-thirds (61 percent, 152 younger; and 66 percent, 159 older) met this goal exclusively through housework.

After adjusting for other types of regular physical activity, the results show that homework was associated with sharper mental capacity and better physical ability. But only in the elderly.

Cognitive scores were 8 percent and 5 percent higher, respectively, among those who worked in light or heavy households, compared to the low-volume group.


And the intensity of homework was associated with specific cognitive domains. In particular, heavy homework was associated with a 14 percent higher concentration score while light homework was associated with a 12 percent higher and 8 percent higher short and delayed memory scores, respectively.

Similarly, the sit-to-stand time and balance / adjustment scores were 8 percent and 23 percent faster, respectively, in the high volume group than in the low volume group.

Those who were younger received an average of five years more education than their older counterparts. And since the level of learning is positively associated with baseline mental activity and slow cognitive decline, it may explain the observed differences in the effect of housework between the two age groups, the researchers explained.


This is an observational study, and as such, they cannot establish the cause, they warn, adding that the study depends on the level of physical activity and the amount and intensity of household chores.

But they point to previous research that suggests a link between aerobic exercise and improved cognitive function, so the sharp mental activity associated with housework may occur through a similar approach, they suggest.

They added: “These findings collectively suggest that higher cognitive, physical and sensorimotor functions related to heavy housework may be associated with a lower risk of physiological decline in older adults living in the community.”


They conclude: “Inclusion in daily life (physical activity) through household responsibilities (i.e., housework) has the potential to achieve higher (physical activity), which is positively associated with functional health, especially in older community-resident adults.”

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