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A Dogs tale.

It said that man’s best friend is not only a faithful companion but can also make us healthier. “Dogs help us reach exercise targets,” according to new research. Owners are 34% more likely to hit exercise targets as they walk their pets regularly.

One would expect dog owners who walk their dogs to walk more overall, so this finding is unsurprising. However, this study found that dog owners who walk their dogs also appear to do higher levels of moderate and vigorous physical activity.

The survey resulted in 5,819 people who had responded to the initial walking questions and were available for analysis. Of these, 41% owned a dog, 61% of whom walked their dogs for at least 10 minutes at a time.

Participants were asked whether they walked their dog and, if so, how frequently. They were also asked about their dog’s age and breed or size. People were classified as:

  • dog walkers (owned a dog and walked it for at least 10 minutes at a time)
  • dog owner non-walkers (owned a dog but didn’t walk it or walked it for less than 10 minutes at a time)
  • non-dog owners

Responses to the questions about moderate and vigorous exercise were compared against recommended exercise levels from public health guidelines to determine whether participants had regular levels of each.

The results suggest that dog walking was more common in younger people and those with a higher education level. Gender, ethnicity and income were not related to how much dog walking people took part in.

Overall, dog walkers walked more during the week and did more leisure time activities than people who did not own a dog. Importantly, dog owners who did not walk their dogs were much less likely than those who did walk their dogs to walk the recommended levels or to participate in other leisure time activities.

Dog walkers were also more likely to do moderate and vigorous activities during the week – approximately 40% more likely than people who did not own a dog. These results accounted for factors such as age, gender, ethnicity, education, income and general health status.

Unsurprisingly, dog walkers were found to be more physically active overall than those who didn’t own a dog or those who owned a dog but didn’t walk it. Dog walkers were also more likely to meet the recommended levels of weekly physical activity.

It appears that it is not the dog per se that has this effect: people who own dogs but don’t walk them (or don’t walk them very much) appear to have lower levels of overall activity than people who don’t own dogs at all. It seems that owning a dog but not walking it is bad for the dog’s owner as well as the dog. In any case, regular to moderate physical activity is likely to be beneficial to your health, whether it’s in the company of a dog or not.


Jay Panchmatia 01-04-2011


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