Spending time with grandkids has multiple health benefits, keeping older adults young at heart both physically and mentally.
A healthy dose of time with grandma and grandpa is not only good for the parents’ sanity, growing research suggests grandchildren are keeping their grandparents young at heart, both physically and mentally.
While having involved grandparents is heaven sent for parents and the small people being doted upon, there’s mounting evidence that suggests the benefits go both ways.
Chasing after rampant preschoolers is a surefire way to up your daily Fitbit reading, with grandchildren typically encouraging their grandparents to be more active with walks to the park, gardening and participating in sports. A study published in journal Evolution and Human Behaviour found grandparents who regularly cared for their grandchildren (but were not primary caregivers) outlived those who did not.
While being more active is a known preventative for illness, it also encourages joint mobility, strength and better sleep which all enhance quality of life. Aside from activity, the simple joy of cuddling or holding hands with grandchildren boosts physical health by strengthening the immune system. According to a Reader’s Digest article, people exposed to greater amounts of touch often have a decrease in inflammatory cells and an increase in white blood cells which fight illness. Hand holding has also been known to reduce blood pressure with levels of oxytocin (the love or feel good hormone) increasing.
Involved grandparents have also been found to be mentally sharper, with recent research by the Women’s Health Aging Project in Australia indicating post-menopausal women who spend a moderate amount of time with their grandchildren had a lower risk of the onset of Alzheimer’s and similar cognitive disorders. Grandmothers who spent at least one day a week with their grandchildren reported the greatest cognitive ability. Although, too much of a good thing rings true here with research suggesting the adverse effect with those who babysat more than four days.
It seems getting just the right dose of time with your little people is the perfect antidote to aging, and if you don’t have any of your own, research indicates borrowing some has a similar if not the identical effect. And science gives you permission to hand them back when you’ve had enough. Phew.
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