It is unlikely to be welcome news for those hoping to put their feet up in later life: a study has found that the key to keeping a sharp memory could be to do more housework.
A combination of light housework such as washing up, making the bed, tidying and cooking, and heavy housework, including window cleaning and vacuuming, appeared to keep people in better shape. The link was seen independently of how much other physical activity the over-65s did in either their work or leisure time, researchers said.
Their paper, published in BMJ Open, is based on almost 500 adults in Singapore who underwent tests to determine their physical and cognitive health.
They were divided into two age bands; between 21 and 54, with an average age of 44, and between 65 and 90, with an average age of 75.
The results of memory tests and physical tests, such as how quickly people could move from sitting to standing and walking speed, showed that housework was linked to sharper mental abilities and better physical capacity, but only in the older group.
Cognitive scores were 8 per cent and 5 per cent higher in the over-65s doing high volumes of light or heavy housework respectively, than in those doing less. The sit-to-stand time was 8 per cent faster in those doing higher volumes of heavy housework, and balance scores were 23 per cent higher.
The same findings may not have been found in the younger group because they had on average five more years of education, itself linked to better mental agility and slower cognitive decline. The study is observational and cannot prove cause and effect.