Now the holidays are over and January is here, you might be looking for ways to brighten the dark days and trying to work out how to keep fit and healthy. According to new research the answer is perhaps not as complicated or off-putting as you might think.

New scientific research has shown that grandparents who watch their grandchildren live longer than seniors with no caring responsibilities, so maybe regularly babysitting the grandkids is just the boost your new year needs.

As the holidays are traditionally a time for getting together with the whole family, chances are you spent the festive season surrounded by family and if you are blessed with grandchildren, maybe you have had your fair share of child care. With research showing that looking after children helps seniors to age well, it might be a good idea to arrange to look after the kids regularly throughout the year, and everyone can benefit.

The research comes from the Berlin Aging Study which looked at data from more than 500 people ages 70 and older, some of whom were seniors who provided some child care whether for their grandchildren or for others, and some who did no child care. Grandparents who were primary caregivers for grandchildren were not included in the study.

The results showed that seniors who provided some care had a lower risk of death over a 20 year period than those who did not help others. But what exactly is it about looking after grandchildren that is so good for seniors’ health? Although the findings didn’t show definite causes for the statistics, there are many possible reasons for the results.

Boosts Happiness

One of the more obvious benefits is the real joy that grandchildren bring. It is widely acknowledged that having grandkids is more fun than having children the first time round. You are Grandma and Gramps, and you do not need to worry about setting the rules and boundaries; it’s your job to break the rules and just have fun! You can spoil the kids, plus you probably have more time to spend with them doing crafts, reading, or going for walks than you did as busy parents.

Watching the grandchildren has also been linked with decreased rates of stress and depression often suffered by seniors. Time spent with grandchildren is golden time filled with chatter and hugs, which is why it can lift the spirits like nothing else and bring such happiness.

Being useful and having life purpose has also been cited as a key factor in boosting personal happiness levels, and looking after children can fulfill this need.

Increases Physical Activity

The thought of going to the gym or an exercise class is not everyone’s idea of a good time, but spending the day with lively children can give you a work out like no other – without you even noticing!

Have you ever wondered why you might feel tired after a day of babysitting the kids? It is all the extra steps you take, running around after them, bending stretching, not to mention playing physical games in the backyard or park.

Keeping active is so good for seniors, ensuring the heart stays healthy and the bones strong, so what better way to stay fit than a day of child care?

Keeps the Brain Healthy

Children notoriously ask lots of questions, and have unique ways of looking at things. It can be hard to keep up with the conversations of small children, as they are interested and intrigued by everything.

Answering questions and having lots of varied conversations is really good for brain functionality. Research shows that the more cognitive stimulation we have the healthier it is for our brains, increasing speed of recall and memory.

Social interaction is renowned for being the key to keeping the brain healthy and so time spent with grandkids is like a workout for the brain.

Lowers the risk of Alzheimer’s

Further research carried out by the Women’s Health Aging Project in Australia has even shown that spending quality time with grandkids may significantly reduce the risk for developing Alzheimer’s.

When viewing the cognitive function of women who care for their grandchildren for one day a week it shows that they have a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s and other cognitive disorders than women of the same age who don’t look after small children.

It is thought that this is due to the combination of regular social interaction having a positive effect on mental health, helping to prevent the social isolation that can lead to depression and the cognitive stimulation that caring for children brings.