Household chores and activities may lower heart disease risk for older women, study finds

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Staying active at home helps deliver heart health benefits

A new study conducted by researchers from the University of California at San Diego explored how older women’s habits around the house may affect their heart health

According to their findings, keeping up with daily household activities, like washing dishes, cooking, or even taking a shower, may lower the risk of heart disease in older women

“The study demonstrates that all movement counts towards disease prevention,” said researcher Steve Nguyen, Ph.D. “Spending more time in daily life movement, which includes a wide range of activities we all do while on our feet and out of our chairs, resulted in a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.” 

All movement helps disease risk

For the study, the researchers analyzed data from over 5,400 women enrolled in the Women’s Health Initiative Objective Physical Activity and Cardiovascular Health study. For one week, the women wore accelerometers to measure the frequency and intensity of their daily movement. The team was primarily interested in analyzing movement that wouldn’t be considered traditional exercise, such as movement related to daily chores or activities. 

The study showed that activity that the team defined as “daily life movement” is an integral part of heart health. They classified daily life movement as any activity that occurs while standing or walking indoors, such as cooking, gardening, changing clothes, taking a shower, or doing dishes. 

The researchers learned that women who logged at least four hours per day of daily life movement had stronger heart health than those who did less than two hours of these activities. Women in the former group were 43% less likely to develop heart disease and more than 60% less likely to experience a heart disease-related death. They were also 43% less likely to develop coronary heart disease and 30% less likely to have a stroke. 

With many older women struggling with heart health, the researchers hope these findings bring some positive news. While traditional exercise is important for heart health, this study shows that staying active in the home throughout the day can also significantly benefit older women’s hearts. 

“Much of the movement engaged in by older adults is associated with daily life tasks, but it may not be considered physical activity,” said researcher Andrea LaCroix, Ph.D. “Understanding the benefits of daily life movement and adding this to physical activity guidelines may encourage more movement.” 

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