Breaking news: doing housework helps you age well!

Say what?! As you might imagine, I did a double take when I read this headline in the Guardian last week: Housework may promote health in old age, study suggests.  I’m definitely someone “in old age”, and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to read further or not.  My first thought was, “What the …, that’s the last thing I want to hear.”

I’m happy to report that the results of this study haven’t been embraced by everyone, although the authors did have some ‘interesting’ observations to report.

First of all, I know you will all be surprised to learn that … ta da … most housework is done by, wait for it, women!!  I hope these researchers weren’t awarded too large a grant for this work; most women could have told them this.  According to my husband, it’s because only women see dust!


While most of us are aware that, as the study reminds us, regular physical activity “improves physical and mental health, mitigates the risks and effects of chronic diseases, and reduces falls, immobility, dependency and mortality among older adults”, I don’t think it has to follow that “… tasks like dusting, scrubbing floors and washing the windows …” need be the go-to regular physical activity.  I am only guessing, but I think these researchers must have been young … and mostly male!


These were their findings:

After taking into account factors including age, sex, and the amount of light housework undertaken, the team found cognitive scores and attention scores were 8% and 14% higher respectively for older adults doing high amounts of heavy housework – on average 131 minutes a week – compared low levels, which appeared to amount to none at all.

Sit-to-stand times were lower for older adults reporting high amounts of heavy housework compared with low amounts, while they were also assessed as being at lower risk of having a fall.

The team also found cognitive scores were 5% higher for older adults who reported high levels of light housework – on average doing 902 minutes a week – and memory scores were also higher, compared with those undertaking low levels of such tasks, averaging 89 minutes a week.

902 minutes of light housework per week!  That’s 15 hours.  What light housework can take 15 hours per week?  And washing windows, scrubbing floors and dusting for an average of 131 minutes per week (2 hours and 11 minutes) seems like a lot of heavy housework.  These must be pretty dirty homes.  Old people don’t get things that dirty, folks!


The good news is that for those old folks with very dirty homes who are heavily into cleanliness, all that housework you’re doing is paying off.  You can stand up faster than the rest of us, and you should have a cognitive advantage in finishing off a crossword puzzle, if you can just tear yourself away from all that housework and sit down and pick up the crossword instead.

The best news is that the results of this research are not definitive.  I was very relieved to read the concluding paragraph of this article, quoting Charlie Foster, a professor of physical activity and public health at the University of Bristol:

“I suspect asking people to be active by doing housework won’t be one of the government’s ways of promoting physical activity.”

Phew.  I’ll stick with the gym!

Image source: Pinterest

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43 Responses to Breaking news: doing housework helps you age well!

  1. Jean says:

    Interesting..15 hrs. of housework inside/per wk. if there’s only 1-2 adults living, is alot of time.
    Anyway, better get crackin’, my stovetop needs cleaning… 😦

  2. I don’t think housework does much for my cognitive ability. It’s repetitive work I’ve done a thousand times before. Sometimes, I’ll come up with an idea on a fiction piece I’m working on. I do like the fact that it helps keep me from being too sedentary and that I’m burning calories. But I also find that vacuuming my house causes minor aches and pains a couple hours later now. So, I’m trying to break the routine up rather than do it all in one go.

  3. heimdalco says:

    I LOVE it.

    All those years I was an OR RN I looked forward to days off & doing housework. After the stresses of my job (& there were many) housework was sort of a no-brainer. There were great & obvious results, I didn’t have to think too much & nobody died if I made a mistake. I liked it.

    As I’ve gotten older & am retired I still don’t mind housework so much. I just don’t like doing it as often & will put it last on my list after writing a blog entry, putting together a newsletter or making parts for our club’s Christmas Parade float (like I’m doing now). And it comes WAY after visiting the new grandbaby. None of those things burns the calories housework does but I enjoy them more … LOL

    • Jane Fritz says:

      I like your explanation of the positive sides of housework: there are good results (although far too short lived IMHO) and nobody dies. I can buy those “attractions”. But your new, competing options are so much more fun! 😊

  4. LiziRose says:

    Those numbers definitely seem a little off… but regardless I’m still going to keep this silver lining in mind when I get grumpy about doing housework 😆

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Lol. Well, I guess that’s worth something, but don’t overdo it when there so much more enjoyable physical activity to be had! 😏

      • LiziRose says:

        Indeed! I notice the study talked about cognitive and physical health…but not mood well-being. They should do a comparison study with people who do activity in nature, or ANY activity that’s not 15 hours/week of chores !!

  5. Linda sprague says:

    Great post! I must return to cleaning beyond my fridge now!

  6. margiran says:

    Interesting article Jane.
    I loathe housework at the same time as desiring a clean, tidy house so the minimum to keep it reasonable for me. This helps:-
    ‘You come from dust, you will return to dust.
    That’s why I don’t dust,
    It could be someone I know’.

  7. Great post, thanks for sharing! ❤️

  8. dfolstad58 says:

    My wife, son, and I all share chores at home. Over time it seems we have adopted which ones we take care of. I get off lightly I think and bathrooms and showers and fixing things are my areas of expertise. Laundry rarely is my chore, I did offer to do it early in our marriage and asked Sue how many bottles of bleach per load? She told me I was excused, she would handle it. hmm?

  9. kegarland says:

    lol this is definitely research from men

  10. Yup, I expect genetics have something to do with it. But however it’s done, it’s good to move. Might as well be cleaning and accomplish two things at once. 😉

  11. BernieLynne says:

    I’ve seen two sides of this. My 99 year old mother in law who vacuum and moved the furniture to do it and all the other tasks. Fit as a fiddle until the end which came from a fall at the drug store. My 95 year old mother, who from age 80, let the housekeeping services and myself, do it all. Didn’t even get up to get her own coffee as my brother did that. She quit cooking and he started doing it. She quit it all at about 85 so at 95 she is in LTC and needs help getting out of bed. Can’t walk without help. My mother in law at 95 was still golfing 9 holes but she was taking a cart then. So I want to be able to do housework for a LONG time. No it’s not my focus and sometimes I can’t see dust either but the activity is certainly one step in keeping fit.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      I just looked it up and just slightly more than 0.2% of the population in Canada is 95 or older. People can be very fit and then their body starts telling them to slow down, usually from the pain of arthritis in their lower back, which affects moving at all. And few people over 80 more less 90 can still play golf. I can’t help but think that these examples say a lot more about their genes than whether they do their own housework! It’s wonderful that your MIL was so active until she reached the astounding and rare age of 99, but if your mother was active until 80 and is still kicking at 95, that is still remarkable. You and your family clearly have excellent genes!

  12. LA says:

    Nooooo! There’s no way I’m believing this!!

  13. Inkplume says:

    Who the heck funds research like this? It’s entertaining but seems to me there are more important studies they could be spending their money on.

  14. debscarey says:

    I get the any kind of activity is better than no activity concept, but really! Who do they think they’re persuading – the one gender who gets lumbered with most of it? I’m not the best housekeeper, but I’d question those hours of “heavy” cleaning being required weekly – unless you live with children and dogs. I can think of so many better ways that research funding could’ve been spent, but I suspect I’d not be alone in that.

  15. boblorentson says:

    Dust? What’s that? Like your husband, I think only women see it. But I still do as I’m told and do my share of the cleaning as I have a pretty good imagination for things I can’t see.

  16. Definitely sounds like one of those crackpot research grants and hopefully written with tongue in cheek. We do our housework on a regular basis but much prefer the outdoors, the gym or the pool.

  17. I am neither dirty nor do I spend hours doing housecleaning per week however I am uniquely blessed to be married to one of those men who DOES see dust! And our Sunday morning ritual includes cleaning the house, together. It takes about an hour and we enjoy doing it which leaves the rest of the hours in the week for exercise classes, golf, gardening, walking and…staying active,

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