Do the washing up to live longer – says a major new report.

You can forget the gym, jogging and workouts. Almost as good for your health is vacuuming or mowing the lawn. Even just an hour of chores a day cuts your risk of an early death in half.

That’s good news for those like me, who believe if God meant us to sweat he’d have put drainpipes under our arms.

Where does this life-giving and guilt reducing news come from? It’s a drum roll for a team of researchers in Norway’s School of Sport Sciences. They analysed 8 studies from the US, UK, and Scandinavia that covered 36,000 adults aged 40 and over.

I can’t resist giving you the study’s full title. It’s ‘Dose-response associations between accelerometry measured physical activity and sedentary tie and all cause mortality: systematic review and harmonised meta-analysis’.

You deserve an extra year of life just for reading that. But what can we learn f this major and authoritative study?

First, you don’t have to almost kill yourself to have a health benefit from exercise.

The researchers identified that 5 minutes of moderate activity a day halved the risk of adults dying over the next six years. Okay, so the study focused on those younger than the ‘after-work’ generation. But don’t knock the principle.

Indeed, the report says, ‘The observation that light intensity physical activity also provided substantial health benefits . . .  suggests older people and those not able to be physically active at higher intensities will still benefit from just moving around’.

Second, regular stuff – like housework – counts as ‘exercise’

Those volunteers taking part in the research wore devices to measure the intensity of their movements. When this was correlated to their health and lifespan the discovery was surprising.

It was that doing daily chores had unexpected benefits.

What could be defined as ‘moderate activity’ included vacuuming, mowing the lawn, cooking, cleaning and other such household tasks. And the researchers identified that an hour of light domestic activity added to someone’s lifespan.

The report has no mention of how much credit you get for crawling round the floor with grandchild. Or trying to strap them into a car seat. But they must surely be worth the equivalent of vacuuming a mansion or cutting the grass at Wimbledon.

A co-author of the report, Dr Charlotte Edwardson, of the University of Leicester was quoted by Mailonline saying the findings “show ‘physical activity of any intensity lowers the risk of death. Reinforcing the saying “Doing something is better than doing nothing”.’

She added, ‘‘If you’re someone who doesn’t achieve the recommended levels of moderate intensity physical activity, then doing more light activity, for example, pottering around more at work or at home and just generally being on your feet more, will still be beneficial.’

Third, get off your backside if you want to live longer.

Ready for this? Sitting down for 9.5 hours a day more than doubles the risk of an early death. And that ‘sitting down’ covers everything from being a couch potato to hunching over a computer.

Worse still, every hour of inactivity above the 9.5 hours threshold increases the danger of death even further.

So it’s not enough to literally sit back – for many hours – taking credit for some life-extending household activity you have done. Do that for too long and the benefits go steeply into reverse.

To quote from the NHS guidelines on activity, ‘All adults should break up long periods of sitting with light activity.’

I’d suggest the best response to this news is not to quip, ‘Now we know why women live longer’. Or ‘Does this mean the Queen must be good with a Hoover?’. But to sit up, stand up and do something.

As for me,  it’s time to remove myself from my laptop and head for the vacuum cleaner. It has to be done.

Meanwhile, for more on the value of exercise to your help and wellbeing, see the AfterWorkNet webpages on Keeping Fit. And catch up with what sport can do for you at our blog Add Years To Your Life While Having Fun And Making Friends.

Do you have something to add about keeping fit? Please share it here or with the AfterWorkNet Facebook group. Thank you.

Peter Meadows

Peter is AfterWorkNet’s Programme Director. He’s still working part time in his 70s, helping churches and resourcing inter-church initiatives. This is alongside enjoying his eight grandchildren, escaping to Spain and spending his kids’ inheritance.


  1. Some good advice in this latest nudge from Peter Meadows. But why do we allow ourselves to be chained to a computer? It was never ever so when we were fit in wartime Britain and in the following austerity years! Sport was sport for sports sake and not big business. Activity was natural and did not need a doctor’s or Peter Meadow’s prescription! However my prescription faintly resembles Peter’s! Priority after time away is, when rain ceases here in Cumbria, tend the lawns (2 hours). Extract weeds from borders (I hour). pick the fruit off trees/bushes; dig up the potatoes, leeks, beetroot, etc. (30/45 minutes. Approximately every 7/10 days personally vacuum, wash and polish the car at home (not at carwash) (1 hour) Fridays vacuum the house, both lounges, kitchen, dining rooms, bedrooms and bathroom. Wash kitchen and bathroom floors & clean toilets (3 hours). Take out monthly Parish newsletters. Take out Meals on Wheels 3 days a month to mainly 70+ year olds. Ourselves just past milestone 85 – my wife following 3 months behind. She’s still trying to catch up after all these years!!

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The word retirement is not even in the Bible. What is taught in scripture is transition. There is nothing that says you work most of your life and then get to be selfish for the next 20 years

Rick Warren, PurposeDrivenLife