Washing up and folding laundry ‘help older women live longer’

photo credit: IKEA

Older women who continue to do household chores like folding the laundry or washing the dishes for themselves could be effectively lengthening their lives, according to new research.

A study carried out by scientists at the University at Buffalo, New York and published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society has found that continuing to keep the body moving, even at just a moderate level, can help to prolong a person’s life.

Many people like to hire in a professional cleaner as they get on in years and can no longer manage the more vigorous chores, and we believe that this break is well-deserved — you shouldn’t have to be on your knees scrubbing the floors as you get older.

But the experts tend to leave the gentler chores to you, which the research suggests could be doing you the world of good.

How gentle chores could help to prolong life

The University of Buffalo researchers monitored the physical activity levels of more than 6,000 women aged between 63 and 99 for the study. Each participant was fitted with an accelerometer that tracked their physical activity throughout a typical day.

It was found that those who took part in at least half an hour of moderate to vigorous physical activity each day were 39 per cent less likely to die prematurely.

Meanwhile, the researchers also noted that participants could reduce their risk of premature death by 12 per cent, even if they only did half an hour of gentle physical activity each day. This activity could be as light as folding laundry or standing at the sink to wash up — it didn’t have to be anything vigorous like going to the gym.

Even when the women passed the age of 80, similar results were seen, indicating that it is activity level rather than age that is the most important factor at play here.

Michael LaMonte, lead author of the study, commented: “This is remarkable because current public health guidelines require that physical activity be of at least moderate or higher intensity to confer health benefits. Our study shows for the first time in older women that health is benefited, even at physical activity levels below the guideline recommendations.

“Doing something is better than nothing, even when at lower-than-guideline recommended levels of physical activity.”

How much gentle activity can older people fit in?

Although the study focused on women, it’s likely that the same results would be the case for men, as keeping the body and mind active can help to prevent the onset of all kinds of degenerative conditions.

The researchers estimated than more than half (55 per cent) of older people’s time is taken up with light physical activity, possibly without them even realising. For instance, loading and unloading the dishwasher, folding washing, chopping vegetables, washing up by hand, wiping down surfaces, vacuuming and mopping the floor could all count as gentle physical activity.

Of course, if doing all of those yourself sounds like too much of a big task, hire in a professional cleaning company to take care of the larger jobs, so you’ll just be left with the smaller chores. You’ll hardly feel like you’re doing any housework, but you could still be lengthening your life.

Source: Buffalo