Dogs are man’s best friend, but they can also be a good health partner for some people. Older dog owners who walked their dog at least once a day got 20 percent more exercise than those without dogs, according to recent findings by researchers in England.
Those same dog owners also spent 30 fewer minutes a day being sedentary. For older people, regular exercise has been found to improve overall wellness.
The researchers from two British universities analyzed data from more than 3,000 people with a median age of about 70. The study’s participants wore an activity monitor for seven days, and the data were analyzed along with weather data that could have affected activity.
The findings also show that a dog’s need for walks can be a powerful motivator: All of the participants were less active on bad-weather days. Still, the regular dog walkers were more active on the worst weather days than those without dogs were on the best weather days.
The researchers concede the cause-and-effect relationship between dog ownership and a more active lifestyle could go both ways: People who want to be more active may get dogs, though other studies have shown the dog provides its owner with incentive to get outside.
In the current study, researchers say the findings highlight the important role of external motivation — meaning that the dog needs to be exercised even in bad weather.
Beyond improving older adults’ exercise habits, the benefits of dog walking could lead to changes in the way we live such as pet-friendly retirement communities and off-leash areas or dog-walking trails in parks.
So, help your dog help you. Grab the leash and get out there.