An old woman doing housework, hoovering.

It turns out household chores, exercise and socializing not only keep you physically and mentally fit, they also might stave off dementia. A new study examined how those activities and the use of electronic devices affected people at higher genetic risk of developing Alzheimer’s and those with little to no risk of the disease.

“Our study has found that by engaging more frequently in healthy physical and mental activities people may reduce their risk of dementia,” study author Huan Song, MD, PhD, of Sichuan University in Chengdu, China, said in a statement. “More research is needed to confirm our findings. However, our results are encouraging that making these simple lifestyle changes may be beneficial.”

More than 500,000 people from a United Kingdom database took part in the study, which appeared in the online issue of Neurology. The group did not have dementia and averaged about 56 years of age. The respondents filled out questionnaires at the beginning of the study regarding physical activities and how often they participated in them. The activities included everything from climbing stairs and walking to participating in strenuous sports. The cohort also answered questions about household chores, job-related activities and the type of transportation they used.

The group also completed a questionnaire on mental activities, level of education, how often they visited with friends and family, and whether they attended social clubs, religious groups and took part in computer games.

After adjusting for factors such as age, income and smoking, researchers found most physical and mental activities showed links to the risk of dementia. People who were highly engaged in frequent exercise, household chores and daily visits with friends and family had 35%, 21% and 15% lower risk of dementia respectively, compared to people who were least engaged in those activities.

The researchers found that all participants benefited from the protective effect of physical and mental activities, whether or not they had a family history of dementia.

A number of studies in recent years have linked physical activity, low education and other factors to the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. A recent study by researchers at two California universities found that eight modifiable risk factors including smoking, obesity, physical inactivity and low education could be linked to dementia.