House Cleaning: Exercise Benefiting Seniors’ Physical and Mental Health

Those who’ve done housework know it can be strenuous and feel like a real workout. Now experts are saying it really is good exercise for our senior loved ones.

We always hear we have to get moving, we need to keep active and physical fitness is good for the body and the mind.

It really is true!

We need to get and keep moving, doing activities that we enjoy, so that we will stay motivated to keep on doing it.

That is true for our senior loved ones as well. No matter their age, staying physically active is the best medicine.

It doesn’t have to be running marathons, hiking the Appalachian Trail or any such strenuous activity. It could be as routine as doing the household chores every day!

Researchers Found House Cleaning Was Good Exercise

A study conducted by a researcher at the Chase Western Reserve University Nursing School found that household chores completed by seniors kept them up and moving.

In addition to the physical exercise attained through common household tasks, seniors found that completing these tasks every day gave them a sense of purpose and accomplishment, thus contributing to both physical and mental health.

Participants were aged 65 to 94 years and had at least one chronic disease, received Medicare/Medicaid, needed assistance with at least one activity of daily living and unable to manage medication dosing, transportation or finances.

According to the researcher “the study shows how important it is for sedentary older adults with disabilities and chronic illnesses to continue physical activities, such as doing reaching exercises while sitting, arm curls and standing up and sitting down in a chair.”

Household cleaning chores were shown to provide great opportunity to be active physically and mentally.

Physical Activity Comes In Many Forms

This study underscores the fact that physical activity in any form can bring our senior loved ones great benefits both physically and emotionally.

Having a sense of purpose when getting active just adds to the bounty for seniors and really all of us.

Here are some ideas for our seniors to be physically active while feeling a sense of accomplishment.


I love both my flower and vegetable garden. It can be physically strenuous to keep it looking the way I want it to with each new season, but the work brings rewards in its beauty or food for the table. Your senior can do weeding, raking leaves, pruning, planting or planning the garden.

Shopping for new flowers in the spring and harvesting the vegetables from the garden in the summer bring a huge sense of pride and joy! If your senior doesn’t have a yard anymore, they can still plant a window garden with fresh herbs or a patio garden with containers of any plants they choose.

Walking in other people’s gardens or taking a trip to the botanical garden near you is another great way to get physically active while connecting to the earth. Another great activity is to go berry picking or apple picking at a local grower.

Your senior will surely enjoy the exercise, fruits of their labors but also reminiscing about their experience with picking or growing fruits, canning jelly or eating grandma’s canned fruits.

Washing the car

If your senior still has a car or using your car, get them washing it — at least where not limited by water restrictions.

Dragging in the hose, soaping up the vehicle, rinsing off the suds, scrubbing the tires and cleaning the windows inside and out is a great way to accomplish a task, having some fun and getting physical.

Let them do it with the grandkids and the fun will definitely grow! They could do that every week, at least in the warmth of the spring and summer days.

Vacuuming and sweeping 

Doing the vacuuming at least every week is a good way to work both the upper and lower body muscles while seniors clean the house. They could sweep the front and back porch and even the driveway or sidewalk to get outside and get busy.

If they have a dog, encourage them to vacuum more often, even if it is not needed, just to stay active.

Wash and wax the floor

The same idea as vacuuming, washing the kitchen and bathroom floors and even waxing any hardwood floors is a wonderful way to expend some calories and strengthen muscles.

Wash windows

We know that our windows get dusty, smudged with fingerprints or oily from cooking and need to get them cleaned so that we can keep our clear view of the world.

Washing the inside of the windows that are within reach once a month (certainly as long as it is safe for your senior to do) is a satisfying activity that can work muscles.

Walk the dog

Easy to do and fun because your senior can interact with the neighbors on their walk.

It doesn’t have to be long but just enough to get moving every day weather permitting. Even twice a day would be healthy for both the dog and your senior.


Collecting dirty clothes, changing sheets, and carrying wet towels to the washer and dryer is physical work with a payday.

If your senior still enjoys hanging laundry on a line in the sun to dry, they will get even more of a workout. Folding laundry and putting it all away when it is done keeps the physical activity going until the job is done.

Serving a meal

Planning, shopping, storing, washing, chopping, cooking, serving, eating and cleaning it all up once your senior is done whether it is for one or several people involves a lot of energy expenditure. Getting a meal on the table involves a great deal of physical energy.

Remember walking and standing is involved in this activity too as well as carrying, bending, and lifting.

Necessary Precautions for Seniors

It goes without saying – but we will say it anyway – only allow your senior loved one to do the activity that is safe for them and that they have the ability to complete without injury.

Any of the above household chores can be modified according to the abilities of your senior. They can be seated while cooking, use the table for folding laundry, carry small loads of laundry, and take their time to complete the activity.

Helping others complete these tasks doesn’t take away from the achievement for your senior loved one.

Physical movement is important to stay healthy, maintain balance to prevent falls, and gain a sense of purpose in life but it needs to be done safely.

Staying active throughout life, not stopping just because we are aging, is definitely a choice we make. If we don’t stay active and keep our bodies and minds strong, we will lose the ability to be mobile, independent and live life fully no matter our age or chronic condition.

I have the choice of being constantly active and happy

or introspectively passive and sad.

~~Sylvia Plath