How washing the dishes could protect you from DEMENTIA: Keeping fit keeps brain healthy in old age

How washing the dishes could protect you from DEMENTIA: Researchers find keeping fit – even through basic house chores – keeps brain healthy in old age

  • Those who ‘frequently’ do chores a fifth less likely to develop dementia
  • Meanwhile, regular exercise can reduce the risk by 35%, scientists say
  • Scientists say findings show ‘simple lifestyle changes’ may protect dementia

Keeping fit simply by doing household chores can cut your risk of dementia, say researchers.

Adults who ‘frequently’ hoover, do the ironing and take out the rubbish are a fifth less likely be struck down with the cruel memory-robbing disorder than those who don’t bother.

Chinese experts claim the brain benefits all stem from staying healthy.

Experts already accept some forms of housework, such as mowing the lawn, as aerobic exercise.

Lead author Professor Huan Song said: ‘Our study has found that by engaging more frequently in healthy physical and mental activities people may reduce their risk of dementia. 

‘More research is needed to confirm our findings. 

‘However, our results are encouraging that making these simple lifestyle changes may be beneficial.’ 

A study of half a million Britons found that those who ‘frequently’ hoover, do the ironing and take out the rubbish are a fifth less likely to develop dementia compared to those who do it the least

Dozens of studies over the past few decades have shown that regular mental, physical and social activity keeps the brain healthy in old age.

But Professor Song and her team wanted to find out more about the role played by a wide range of lifestyle habits in developing the disease, which affects 900,000 Britons and 5.8million Americans.

Researchers monitored 501,376 thousand Britons using data from the UK Biobank — a hub of medical and genetic information. Contributors regularly answer questions about their lifestyle.

At the start of the study, the middle-aged volunteers were quizzed on their physical activities, including how often they did housework and exercised.

Participants were also asked about how often they see loved ones, use their phone, computer and TV.

Over the course of the 11-year study, 5,185 people developed dementia.  

The findings, published in the journal Neurology, show most physical and mental activities were linked with dementia.

Those who ‘frequently’ did chores were 21 per cent less likely to develop dementia, compared to those who did the least. 

Meanwhile, people who exercised regularly often had a 35 per cent reduced risk of getting diagnosed with dementia, compared to their lazy counterparts.

And those who saw loved ones every day were at a 15 per cent lower risk, compared to those who barely saw friends and family.

The team also calculated dementia incident rates by activity patterns in person-years, which takes into account the number of people in the study and how long they were monitored.

For every 1,000 person-years, there was 0.86 dementia cases among those who regularly did household chores, jumping to 1.02 cases among those who didn’t.

Among regular exercisers, there was 0.45 cases, compared to 1.59 among those who rarely worked out.

And there were 0.62 dementia diagnoses among those who saw their family daily, compared to 0.80 among people who visited loved ones every few months.

The findings accounted for risk factors, such as age, income and smoking. Even those with a family history of dementia still benefitted from being physically and mentally active.

However, the data was based on self-reported physical and mental activity, so may include errors. 

Scientists believe staying active can reduce the chance of developing dementia because it maintains blood flow to the brain and may encourage brain cell growth and survival. 

It also protects against heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and obesity – all of which are factors that increase dementia risk.


Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe a range of neurological disorders

Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe a range of neurological disorders


Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe a range of progressive neurological disorders (those affecting the brain) which impact memory, thinking and behaviour. 

There are many different types of dementia, of which Alzheimer’s disease is the most common.

Some people may have a combination of types of dementia.

Regardless of which type is diagnosed, each person will experience their dementia in their own unique way.

Dementia is a global concern but it is most often seen in wealthier countries, where people are likely to live into very old age.


The Alzheimer’s Society reports there are more than 900,000 people living with dementia in the UK today. This is projected to rise to 1.6million by 2040.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia, affecting between 50 and 75 per cent of those diagnosed.

In the US, it’s estimated there are 5.5 million Alzheimer’s sufferers. A similar percentage rise is expected in the coming years.

As a person’s age increases, so does the risk of them developing dementia.

Rates of diagnosis are improving but many people with dementia are thought to still be undiagnosed.


Currently there is no cure for dementia.

But new drugs can slow down its progression and the earlier it is spotted the more effective treatments are.

Source: Alzheimer’s Society