TUESDAY, Sept. 6 (HealthDay News) -- If you've ever wished you didn't have to fold laundry, mow the lawn or stand in line, consider this: Those daily activities may help keep dementia at bay.
New research finds that seniors who expended the most energy doing chores, running errands, taking care of loved ones and simply going about their business were less likely to experience mental declines as they aged.
"All those things that you would never think of as exercise, they get our heart rate up and make our blood vessels pump blood," said study co-author Todd Manini, an assistant professor of aging and geriatric research at the University of Florida, Gainesville. "But we kind of ignored them in the past and thought mainly about volitional exercise, such as jogging. What this study is telling us is those other activities might also count for health benefits."
The study was published recently in the Archives of Internal Medicine.
One of the challenges in studying the health benefits of a person's total daily activity is that it's hard to keep track of, Manini said. "If I asked you how long you were on the treadmill, you would remember," he said. "But if I asked you how many times you unloaded the dishwasher, folded clothes, mowed the lawn and took out the trash, it's harder to recall."
Instead, researchers measured how many calories people burned over the course of two weeks by having them drink a non-radioactive isotope -- basically, water that had been chemically altered slightly.
The isotope binds with carbon dioxide, the byproduct of the cells using energy. Those who had more isotopes in their urine burned fewer calories than those with less.
Participants, who included almost 200 older adults whose average age was 75, were divided into thirds based on how much energy they used daily, minus the amount the body needs while at rest.
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