housework can lead to sharper memory: study finds housework can lead to sharper memory and better leg strength

LONDON: A new study has found that older people who do housework may have more precise memory, attention span, better leg strength and better fall protection.

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 work physical activities and active transportation. Regular physical activity is good for maintaining optimal physical and mental health. And in older people, it reduces the risk of long-term ailments, falls, immobility, addiction and death.

Yet global surveillance data indicates that in 2016, physical activity was well below recommended weekly levels and had changed little in a decade, with people in high-income countries more than twice as likely to be couch potatoes than those in low-income countries.

Since household chores involve physical activity and are an indicator of the ability to live independently, the researchers wanted to determine whether household chores could contribute to healthy aging and strengthen the physical and mental capacities of older people. in a rich country.

They included 489 randomly selected adults, aged 21 to 90, with less than 5 underlying conditions and no cognitive problems. All of them lived independently in a large residential city in Singapore and were able to perform routine daily tasks.

The participants were divided into two age groups: 21-64 years (249 years; average age 44 years), classified as “younger”; and 65-90 year olds (240; mean age 75), classified as “older”.

Walking speed (gait) and sitting-standing speed from a chair (indicating leg strength and risk of falling) were used to assess physical ability. Validated tests have assessed mental agility (short and delayed memory, visuospatial ability, language and attention span) and physiological factors related to falls.

Participants were asked about the intensity and frequency of household chores they performed regularly, as well as the number of other types of physical activity they engaged in.

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

The intensity of housework was measured in metabolic task equivalent (MET). These are roughly equivalent to the amount of energy (calories) expended per minute of physical activity. Light housework received a MET of 2.5; heavy housework received a MET of 4.

Only about a third (36%; 90) of people in the younger age group and only about half (48%; 116) of those in the older age group achieved the physical activity quota recommended only by the recreational physical activity.

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

After adjusting for other types of regular physical activity, the results showed that housework was associated with sharper mental abilities and better physical ability. But only among the older age group.

Cognitive scores were 8% and 5% higher, respectively, in those who performed a high volume of light or heavy housework compared to those in the low volume groups.

And the intensity of housework was associated with specific cognitive domains. Specifically, heavy housework was associated with a 14% higher attention score, while light housework was associated with 12% and 8% higher short and delayed memory scores, respectively.

Likewise, sit-to-stand time and balance / coordination scores were 8% and 23% faster, respectively, in the high volume group than in the low volume group.

The youngest had on average five more years of schooling than their older counterparts. And since education level is positively associated with baseline mental agility and slower cognitive decline, this could explain the observed differences in the impact of housework between the two age groups, the researchers explained.

This is an observational study and as such cannot establish the cause, they caution, adding that the study relied on subjective reports of physical activity levels and volume and volume. the intensity of household chores.

But they point to previous research indicating a link between aerobic exercise and improved cognitive function, so the sharper mental agility associated with housework could occur through similar mechanisms, they suggested.

They added, “These results collectively suggest that the higher cognitive, physical and sensorimotor functions associated with heavy household chores may be plausibly associated with a lower physiological risk of fall in older people living in the community.”

They concluded: “Incorporating (physical activity) into daily lifestyle through household chores (ie household chores) has the potential to increase (physical activity), which is positively associated with functional health, particularly in older people living in the community. ”

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