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Housework may sharpen memory, lower risk of falls for older adults

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Singapore — Older adults who do housework on a regular basis exhibit sharper mental abilities and better physical capacity, results of a recent study led by researchers from the Singapore Institute of Technology suggest.

The researchers assessed the physical abilities and mental agility of nearly 500 randomly selected adults between the ages of 21 and 90 who had fewer than five underlying conditions and no cognitive issues. All participants were living independently and able to do routine daily tasks around the house. They were divided into two groups – ages 21-64 and 65-90.

Findings show that among the older group, cognitive scores were higher for the participants who did high volumes of heavy housework (8%) and light housework (5%) than those in low-volume groups. Light housework was defined as dusting, ironing and cooking, while heavy housework consisted of vacuuming, washing floors or windows, and painting or decorating.

Heavy housework was associated with a 14% higher attention score, while light housework was linked to 12% and 8% higher scores for short and delayed memory, respectively.


Housework also kept older adults physically active, with 66% reporting they achieved recommended activity goals by only doing chores around the house. Compared with those who did light housework, the participants who did heavy housework performed 23% better in a series of assessment tests that predict the risk of falls. For instance, their sit-to-stand times were 8% faster.

“Incorporating physical activity into daily lifestyle through domestic duties (i.e., housework) has the potential to achieve higher physical activity, which is positively associated with functional health, especially among older community-dwelling adults,” the researchers write.

The study was published online Nov. 22 in the British Medical Journal Open.

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