Housework can increase brain size and fitness


This is a translation of a video commentary by Stephan Martin, MD, Düsseldorf, published on Medscape Germany.

Dear colleagues,

Physical activity is a panacea: it protects against cardiovascular events such as myocardial infarction and stroke. Very active people are less likely to have type 2 diabetes, and the prevalence of dementia is apparently lower for them.

Due to the mechanization and automation of the workplace, fewer and fewer jobs involve physical activity. Even in our own homes, we invest large sums of money so that robot mowers or vacuum cleaners can help around the house.

On top of that, we spend large sums of money in the gym to become physically active. Wouldn’t it be better to do those tedious household chores instead of spending time at the gym?

This raises the question of whether strenuous household chores, such as cleaning windows and vacuuming, are actually healthy. Two ongoing studies on the subject have revealed surprising results.

In the Singapore study, data were collected on how often participants did light or heavy housework. Light duties included cooking, dusting and tidying up. Heavy duties included cleaning windows, vacuuming, and making beds.

The results showed that people who perform strenuous household chores are fitter, in terms of physical and mental abilities, than those who do not perform these tasks.

In the Canadian studythere was a significant association between brain volume and gray matter and the degree of household chores performed.

We know that many household chores are still predominantly done by women. Is this perhaps a reason why women live longer and stay mentally fitter into old age than men?

If this is the case and the study results have been shown to be true in prospective randomized studies, then men can only be advised to grab the cleaning supplies for health reasons only.

I hope this advice is interesting for your home environment.


Stephan Martin

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