Housework Helps Seniors Meet Activity Targets

A sedentary lifestyle has been associated with a number of health problems including obesity, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and abnormal cholesterol levels – too much sitting can increase the risk of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer.  By moving more often, older adults can enjoy healthier lives, improve cognition, and reduce the risk for falls; and housework counts more than you might think towards daily activity levels targets. 

According to a study recently published in BMJ Open, researchers explored the value of doing household chores to boost physical and mental capacity among older adults.  Global monitoring data shows that physical activity levels were well below the recommended in 2016, especially among people in high-income countries.  

Although older adults in wealthy countries may be financially able to hire help to clean or garden, being active doing household chores like washing dishes, dusting, making the bed, doing laundry, vacuuming, mopping, cleaning windows, tidying up, and cooking helps reduce the risk for long term conditions, falls, immobility, dependency, and death. 

In a study of adults between the ages of 21 and 90, with fewer than 5 underlying conditions and no cognitive problems, nearly two-thirds of participants in the older age group met their target physical activity quota from housework alone.  Cognitive scores were also higher among people doing high volumes of light or heavy housework.   Sit-to-stand times and balance/coordination scores were also faster among this group. 

Community-dwelling older adults who continue to participate in daily household chores can benefit from more physical activity, better functional health, and better attention and memory.  Cleaning, decluttering, gardening, and preparing meals independently support the continued ability to age in place. 

Not a natural housekeeper?  Try choosing one area of the house to tidy up – maybe it’s the kitchen counter.  Once the kitchen is more organized, it will be easier to prepare meals.  Cooking a healthy meal from scratch is satisfying and can boost self-esteem.  A cleaner home can also give people a greater sense of control over their environment, improve mood, and reduce anxiety.  And nothing feels better at the end of a day than getting into a clean, crisply-made bed!