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Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Household Chores May Increase Brain Health

Doing chores around the house — inside and out — is linked to bigger brain size, an indication of cognitive health.

Mopping the floor, mowing the lawn … household chores can seem like fairly mindless duties. But a new study shows a link between the frequency you perform those chores and the size of your brain.

"Scientists already know that exercise has a positive impact on the brain, but our study is the first to show that the same may be true for household chores," says Noah Koblinsky, lead author of the study, and exercise physiologist and project coordinator at Baycrest's Rotman Research Institute (RRI). "Understanding how different forms of physical activity contribute to brain health is crucial for developing strategies to reduce the risk of cognitive decline and dementia in older adults."

Kickstarting Your Brain After COVID-19

Chronic stress changes the brain, and 2020 was tough on everyone. If you are in a funk after the anxiety and loneliness brought by the pandemic, we have six ways to start getting better. People with severe symptoms should speak with a mental health professional about talk treatment or medication. 

  • Exercise. People who exercise live longer, so get out for a walk or hop on a bike.
  • Watch what you eat. Nutrition provides the building blocks for neural connections.
  • Be kind. Kindness, altruism and empathy give life meaning and make us happy.
  • Rest up. Sleep recharges the brain and removes toxic waste byproducts.
  • Learn a new skill. Brain function and structure change when you learn a new skill. 
  • Be social. Staying connected with others decreases mortality and the likelihood of illness. 

Research Study

The study evaluated 66 adults with normal cognition ranging in age from 67 to 75 living in Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care in Canada. Participants had an overall health evaluation, structural brain imaging, and a cognition assessment. They were asked about how much time they engaged in household chores like tidying up, making meals, shopping, yard work, home repairs, caregiving, and other housework. 

It turned out that participants who said they spent the most time doing chores also had greater brain volume, regardless of how much exercise they got. Specifically, research found that gray matter volume increased in both the hippocampus and frontal lobe. The hippocampus has a major role in memory and learning, while the frontal lobe is involved with cognition. 

How It Works

It is possible that the study shows that people with bigger brains have a tendency to do the brunt of chores at home. However, it is well known that heart health and brain health are closely linked. Doing housework is similar to low-intensity aerobic exercise, which has positive effects on the heart and blood vessels. 

Neural connections may be stimulated by the planning  and organization essential to carrying out chores, even when we get older. It could also be that those adults who spend more time on chores around the house sat around less. A sedentary lifestyle is associated with poor brain health, among other negative health outcomes. 

“Besides helping to guide physical activity recommendations for older adults, these findings may also motivate them to be more active, since household chores are a natural and often necessary aspect of many people’s daily lives, and therefore appear more attainable,” says Dr. Nicole Anderson, senior scientist at the RRI, Director of the Ben and Hilda Katz Interprofessional Research Program in Geriatric and Dementia Care, and senior author of the study.

Next Steps

Researchers hope to use wearables to track actual household physical activity in future studies. They would also like to see if increasing an individual’s household activity would change brain size or function over time. 

In the meantime, maybe we can all think about chores a little differently. Instead of grousing about taking out the garbage or doing the laundry, take pride in growing your brain. 


This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical decisions before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors