Brisk walking is a much healthier option and a better way to keep fit than mopping floors, dusting and cleaning windows, particularly for older women between the ages of 60-79.
"Older women need to be doing more physical activity," said Dr. Shah Ebrahim, an epidemiologist and expert on aging at the University of Bristol, in southwestern England.
In a survey of more than 2,300 elderly women in Britain, 10 percent said they enjoyed brisk walking, 1 percent did more than 2.5 hours of gardening a week and more than half reported doing heavy housework.
But Ebrahim and his colleagues said although housework requires physical activity it does not seem to have any health benefits.
"When we look at things that we think would go along with being physically active and fit, like pulse rate and obesity levels, they don't show any relationship with housework," explained Ebrahim, whose research is reported in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.
Women in the survey who walked vigorously for 2.5 hours a week or did an equal amount of gardening were less likely to be obese and had a lower resting heart rate, which is a sign of physical fitness.
Although housework requires effort, Ebrahim said more research needs to be done on its long-term benefits before it can be included as a health-promoting activity.
"It has been the subject of very little scientific study because most men don't do it, I suspect, and most science is done by men," he added.