Faced with a pile of dirty dishes, the temptation is to slump on the sofa and turn on the telly instead. But a study shows that in doing so you might be lazing your way into an early grave.
Scientists have found even light household chores – such as doing the washing-up or the dusting – provide enough exercise to substantially cut the risk of an early death.
On the other hand, sitting or lying around all day can more than double the risk of dying before your time.
The researchers say their results show just staying active, rather than trying to achieve unrealistic exercise goals, can help you live longer.
The new research tracked more than 36 000 adults over six years – and categorised their daily activity levels on four levels, from least to most active.
The study, by Leicester University and the Norwegian School of Sport Sciences in Oslo, found that any level of physical activity, regardless of intensity, was associated with a lower risk of death.
An hour of light chores, or five minutes of moderate activity such as vacuuming or mowing the lawn, halved the risk. More vigorous exercise, such as a 24-minute jog or bike ride, cut the risk by 60%.
But the study, published in the British Medical Journal, found sitting or lying down for nine hours a day – not counting sleep – more than doubles your chances of dying early.
Dr Charlotte Edwardson, of Leicester University, said: “These findings really reinforce the saying “Doing something is better than doing nothing”.
“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 and just generally being on your feet more – will still be beneficial.”
Professor Tom Yates, also of Leicester, added: “It has previously been widely assumed more is better in terms of physical activity for health.
“However, this study suggests health may be optimized with just 24 minutes per day of brisk walking or other forms of moderate-intensity physical activity.”