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Dementia prevention: How housework can keep you thin and safeguarded

Housework and exercise – they both feel like a chore for most of us, especially as we get older.

But a study this week found that regular vacuuming, ironing and taking out the trash can lower the risk of dementia in middle-aged and older adults.

Those who did the housework the most were a fifth less likely to be affected by the cruel amnesia disorder than those who did the least.

It came after researchers found in February that strenuous gardening was just as beneficial for warding off an early death as hundreds of push-ups, sit-ups or squats a week.

Researchers believe that a little oomph in housework works like a form of exercise — not just for the body but for the mind as well. Maintaining both is considered crucial for warding off dementia.

A lack of regular exercise can also increase your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, or being overweight or obese — all of which increase your risk of the memory-depriving condition.

Dr Zakariya Waqar-Uddin, a GP in West London, told MailOnline that even 10 minutes of housework can leave people breathless and increase heart rate, increasing physical fitness.

He noted that it’s also necessary to move between rooms and plan what you’re doing, so it keeps gray matter “ticking” — regions in the brain thought to be most important for cognition.

We know that as we get older, we tend to move less. That’s why MailOnline has put together a list of six ways to turn everyday chores into mini-workouts — and it’s backed by experts.

Hoover power lunges

Turn vacuuming into the ultimate leg-burning exercise by performing lunges while vacuuming.

How to do them: Bend both knees as you step forward, lowering until the front knee is at a 90-degree angle and the back knee is an inch off the floor.

Push off on both legs and step through, lifting your back leg and bringing it forward so that your back foot lands in front of you in a lunge position.

Lunges strengthen the hamstrings and calves, which help stabilize the knee joint and can reduce the risk of strain and joint pain.

How much do you have to do? Aim for five sets of 10 reps, with a 60-90 second break in between.

What do the experts say? Personal trainer Belle Hutt said performing lunges targets your quad, hamstring and glutes.

These are “the largest muscle groups in the body, which is why you burn the most calories while strengthening the lower body,” she said.

The sweep up press up

Use the time between sweeping the floor and collecting dirt in your dustpan to strengthen your upper body and core.

How to do them: Make sure both hands are empty when you bend over and get on all fours, keeping your hands slightly wider than your shoulders.

Straighten your arms and legs and lower your body until your chest almost touches the floor. Pause, then push yourself back up. To repeat. If these are too difficult, try getting on your hands and knees instead.

Pushups improve upper body and core strength, increase joint stability and maintain strength as you age – this can help older people stay active longer and reduce the risk of falls.

How much do you have to do? Aim for five sets of five reps, with a 60-90 second break in between.

What do the experts say? Ms. Hutt said, “This is a compound move, which improves core stability and upper body strength.”

Personal trainer Tom Opper added: ‘To keep making progress over time it is essential to apply the principle of progressive overload, which means adding more work to the routine so that your body can adapt. keep adjusting.

“This can be accomplished in a number of ways, such as adding reps, slowing down the tempo of each move, or adding a quarter rep at the bottom of each rep.”

washing squats

Hanging the dishes or running the dishwasher can be a workout in itself, especially if you have a large family. But crouching during the chore is perfect for adding an extra layer of difficulty.

How to do them?: While emptying the washing machine or dishwasher, squat as low to the ground as possible with good form. This means keeping your feet shoulder-width apart, your back straight and sitting on your buttocks.

Only use your hands to pick up the clothes and try not to hold onto surfaces as this will make the exercise too easy.

Squats are already part of everyday life, such as getting up from sitting, getting out of bed, and cleaning up.


Adults are encouraged to do some form of physical activity every day. Exercising just once or twice a week can reduce your risk of heart disease or stroke.

Over 18s should aim for:

  • Do strengthening activities at least two days a week that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms). This includes carrying heavy shopping bags, doing yoga, pilates and lifting weights.
  • Do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity per week or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week. Moderate activity includes brisk walking, cycling, dancing, and doubles tennis. Vigorous activity includes running, swimming, and fast cycling or on hills.
  • Spread the exercise evenly over four to five days a week or every day
  • Reduce time spent sitting or lying down and interrupt long periods of inactivity with any activity

Adults can also reach the weekly activity goal with:

  • Several short sessions of very vigorous intensity activity. This includes lifting heavy weights, circuit training and sprinting hills.
  • A mix of moderate, vigorous and very vigorous intensity activity

Source; NHS

But adding extra calories burns calories, increases muscle strength and improves mobility, balance and posture.

How many do you have to do? Aim for five sets of 10 reps, with a 60-90 second break in between.

What do the experts say? Ms Hutt said: ‘This is another compound move that not only improves lower body strength, but also core strength. Remember to keep your back straight and your core engaged.”

Surface cleaning with one leg

No matter how often you clean them, surfaces just don’t seem to stay clean, right?

Use this as a positive way to get extra exercise. Standing up while cleaning burns about four calories per minute, and standing on one leg requires even more physical and brain power.

How to do them?: To make the legs work harder, try balancing on one for everyday household chores.

Studies have shown that being able to stand on one leg is generally a good sign of health — and those who can’t are twice as likely to die in their sixties.

It has also been linked to a reduced risk of falls and a higher quality of life.

The seemingly simple exercise relies on good balance and muscle strength, as the feet, ankles, legs and core are trusted to stand.

How many do you have to do? Aim to hold for 30 seconds on each leg and perform each three times, with a 60 second rest in between.

What do the experts say? Ms Hutt said: ‘This improves stability/balance for longevity and quality of life. Engage and tighten your core for the best success.’

Extra rides up the stairs

Carrying cleaning supplies, laundry, or other household items up and down the stairs will burn extra calories.

To make the heart work harder, add a few extra stairs up and down.

How to do them: Hold the object in front of you while making sure you can stay upright and see where you are going. Take a few trips while maintaining good posture and tightening the leg muscles with each step.

Holding the objects in front of you builds strength in the upper body and engages the core, while squeezing the legs stimulates the muscles and improves balance.

How many do you have to do? If you’re aiming for a total of 10,000 steps a day — the national recommended amount — do five back and forth for each wash section.

Divide your laundry into five sections: socks/underwear, t-shirts, bedding, dresses/pants and towels.

What do the experts say? dr. Waqar-Uddin said this weight-bearing exercise will make people’s hearts work harder, increasing the effectiveness of chores like exercise.

“Amid the cost of living, people are strapped for cash and may not be able to afford the gym. Anything that keeps them moving and mobile and keeps them out of breath at home can be helpful,” he added.

Ms. Hutt said, “I suggest doing this exercise/task first to warm up and prepare your body for the next exercises.”

A little elbow grease

Scrubbing and polishing become much more difficult tasks when done vigorously.

How to do them: Using chemical-heavy products does a lot of the hard work for you, removing a lot of dirt and grime in minutes.

But opting for hot water and vinegar can have the same effect — with a much cheaper price tag — if you’re willing to use the elbow grease. It will engage the core, shoulder and arm muscles, increase the heart rate and burn more calories.

Plus, it will be more thorough with chores — reaching under the couch with a dustpan and dustpan and scrubbing those other hard-to-reach places — not just making your house cleaner, but making regular cleaning a workout.

If it gets too intense, treat it like a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) session, made popular by Joe Wicks — with cleaning sessions every few minutes alternating with 15- to 45-second rest intervals.

Emily Servante, a certified personal trainer at Ultimate Performance, explained that activities like housework “burn more calories than we might expect.”

Clearing falls into the category of non-exercise activity thermogenesis – any energy expended when not sleeping or exercising.

“People may not realize that the calories burned with the accumulation of all those small activities would be significantly more than the calories burned while exhausting yourself on the treadmill or stationary bike,” she said.

‘Combine your household chores with a few basic exercises as described in [this] program can give you a significant boost to your daily energy expenditure,” added Ms Servante.