Health + Wellness

How Housework Can Boost Your Body & Mind


Seniors, looking for a way to stay mentally quick and physically strong? Start scrubbing.

Researchers from Singapore say housework may be a key to keeping your brain sharp as you age.

Their new study found that in older adults, cleaning the house was tied to a better memory and attention span, and stronger legs, which helps prevent falls.

“Health promotion messaging on staying active should not just be about recreational or non-occupation physical activities,” says study co-author Shiou-Liang Wee, an associate professor of health and social sciences at the Singapore Institute of Technology.

“Housework is a purposeful activity performed by many older adults” and represents a significant share of their self-reported moderate-to-vigorous physical activity, he says. As such, it’s a key complement to recreational physical activity.

The researchers noted that their study doesn’t prove housework causes sharper thinking or better balance, only that there appears to be a link.

RELATED: Easy Ways to Keep your Aging Mind Sharp

What the study shows

For the study, Wee’s team looked at nearly 500 healthy Singaporeans between 21 and 90 years of age.

The investigators used walking and the ability to get up from a chair as an indication of physical ability, and tests of short and delayed memory, language, attention span and visuospatial ability to gauge mental ability. (Visuospatial ability is a key to depth perception and moving around without bumping into objects.)

Participants were also asked about the household chores they did and other types of physical activity.

For Wee’s group, light housework included washing dishes, dusting, making the bed, hanging out the wash, ironing, tidying up and cooking. Heavy housework included window cleaning, changing the bed, vacuuming, mopping and chores involving sawing, painting and repairing.

Among younger participants, 36% said they engaged in enough physical activity to meet the

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