Cleaning 'improves mental health'

Working up a sweat while performing household chores may not just improve the cleanliness of your home, but your mental health too, a survey suggests.

Just 20 minutes of sustained exercise a week - from cleaning to jogging - can impact upon depression, the British Journal of Sports Medicine study found. The more strenuous and frequent the activity, the greater the effect. University College London researchers looked at a survey of 20,000 people on weekly exercise and state of mind.

Another study in the journal also found such exercise among the middle-aged and elderly may delay the ageing process.

No gentle dusting
In the Scottish Health Survey, 3,000 people reported stress or anxiety. The more active they were, the less likely they were to be suffering in this way. Taking part in sports at least once a week lowered the risk by 33%, while housework and walking could cut it by as much as 20%.
However, light dusting or meandering to the bus stop strictly did not count. The activity needed to be for at least 20 minutes at a time, and had to induce breathlessness.

One theory as to why activity might work is that it curbs some biological risk factors for depression, including glucose intolerance, inflammation and cardiovascular problems. Researchers did however concede they were unable to work out the nature of the relationship, and that those with mental health problems may be less likely to exercise in the first place.

"Many studies suggest benefits for mental health from exercise, and for the first time we have been able to quantify the amount of activity which seems to make a difference," said Mark Hamer of University College London.

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