Health benefits of a clean home
A study done at Indiana University found a correlation between a clean home and physical fitness. Researchers found participants with cleaner homes exercised more. “At the end of the day, the interior condition of their house seemed to be the only thing affecting their physical activity,” stated activity expert NiCole Keith.
The question remains: do fit people have more energy to clean their homes, or are they simply disciplined in terms of their fitness and house cleanliness? Regardless, keeping a clean home has its benefits – a potentially fit body being just one.
Other reasons to keep a clean home include:
Lowering stress and fatigue
“When you live in a messy home, you are subconsciously reminded of work that needs to be finished and visually, your eyes do not have a place to rest,” says Dr. Rian Rowles, a psychiatrist affiliated with Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Ill. “Too much clutter can cause tremendous stress and fatigue. When things take longer to find, or can’t be found, stress levels rise, and so does your risk for illness.”
Reducing allergy and asthma symptoms
Not staying tidy in areas with carpeting, upholstery or bedding, or in areas that are naturally damp, such as basements and garages, can worsen allergies and asthma.
Dust mites, pet dander and mold lurk in physical possessions, which can trigger allergic reactions, decrease air quality and increase potential asthma problems, says Dr. Uma Gavani, an allergy and asthma specialist on staff at Christ Medical Center.
“The more stuff you have in your home, the harder it is to clean,” Dr. Gavani says. “Messy areas increase the potential for dust, pet dander and mold to accumulate in closets, on surfaces and in crevices.”
“Falls and fires are two leading causes of injuries and deaths inside the home,” says Gary Bettenhausen, Bureau Chief of EMS from the Oak Lawn Fire Department. “Tripping over objects and slipping on slick surfaces can cause head injuries and broken and sprained limbs, which can result in a trip to the hospital emergency room.”
Anyhing that blocks doorways and hallways is also a fire hazard. “Clutter can easily hasten the spread of fire and hinder your ability to escape or to be rescued,” Bettenhausen says.
It’s important to keep your home picked up and free from spills to make your environment physically safer.
Lessening the spread of germs
Although most people think of bathrooms as the most germ-ridden spots in the house, findings indicate the kitchen is the biggest area of concern.
“The kitchen is a prime area for germs because of the many crevices that can hold water or splatters of food, says Dr. Stephen Sokalski, an infectious disease specialist with Christ Medical Center.
He advises that counter tops should be made of an impervious material that can be cleaned with bleach after preparing raw meats and fish, and that cleaning sponges and cloths, which support the growth of pathogens, should be sanitized after each use.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, gastrointestinal illness can be spread by contaminated food, and food-poisoning is less likely in kitchens that have been properly cleaned and sanitized. “You would be surprised to know how many raw foods grow disease-causing bacteria on their surface before cooking,” says Dr. Sokalski.
He also stresses the importance of paying attention to the bathroom. “The toilet and flush and faucet handles are easily contaminated with potential dangerous germs and need to be disinfected. These are a major focus of environmental cleaning in the hospital and need to be in the home.”
Keeping pests away
Bugs and rodents can multiply and easily hide in messy homes. They are attracted to liquid spills, food debris and dirty pet bowls. Their presence is trouble, as they spread disease, bacteria, germs and allergies.
“Cockroaches are not just annoying, but can spread dangerous germs to humans,” says Dr. Sokalski. “They are a well-established cause of asthma, carry numerous bacteria and parasites and they spread germs that can cause gastroenteritis.”
Mice can also be a problem for many homes. “They can spread diseases to humans, including Lymphocytic Choreomeningitis, Salmonella and Hantavirus,” stated Dr. Sokalski. “It’s very important for the health of the entire family to prevent pest infestations.”
Regular cleaning, including putting all food away in air-tight containers after each meal, and daily trash removal help to keep pests away and uncover them before they become a serious issue.
Improving your diet and waistline
Research has shown that women eat more sweets and high-fat foods when faced with daily hassles or professional stress. Researchers from Cornell University found that a chaotic physical environment may play a role as well. They set up two test kitchens with healthy and unhealthy snacks – one organized and the other messy and disorganized – and found those working in the chaotic kitchen consumed nearly twice as many calories in sweets as those who worked in the organized kitchen.
So, grab the vacuum and work up a little sweat cleaning your home – it’s good for your health!
About the Author
Kate Eller was a regional director of public affairs and marketing operations for Advocate Health Care. She enjoys road trips, dogs, minimalism, yoga, hiking, and “urban hiking.”