goal researchers set as beneficial, as did 48% of older participants.
But 61% of younger and 66% of older participants met this target exclusively through housework, the study revealed.
After accounting for other types of regular physical activity, the researchers found that housework was tied with sharper mental abilities and better physical capacity — but only among the older participants.
Scores on tests of mental ability were as much as 8% higher among those who did lots of housework, compared with those who did little, Lee’s team found. Housework was also tied with higher attention scores.
And among older participants, balance and the time it took to stand up from sitting were better for those who did lots of housework than for those who didn’t.
How housework benefits your brain
Dr. Maria Torroella Carney, chief of geriatric and palliative medicine at Northwell Health in New Hyde Park, N.Y., noted that exercise benefits your brain, and housework is exercise that also involves mental activity.
“Exercise is extremely important for aging for both physical and cognitive function,” she says. “We know this from past studies, but we don’t necessarily appreciate how much housework is a physical activity that takes planning logistics to implement. Exercise and planning are incredibly important for both physical and cognitive health.”
Torroella Carney says physical activity increases blood circulation to your muscles and your brain, which helps mental function.
Housework can be an important part of your exercise routine, she notes.
“Housework is physical but also requires detailed thought processes to complete,” Torroella Carney shares. “It’s a task you’ve got to plan for. You’ve got to use devices, you’ve got to use equipment. There’s planning involved, so there’s cognitive exercise along with physical exercise.”
Her advice: Get moving.
“It’s never too late to start exercising, we know that from other studies, not just this one — it’s never too late,” Torroella Carney concludes. You can start off slow and gradually modify your routine until you find one that works best for you.