Pet dogs could help older owners be more active

Who knew dogs could feel such things? PHOTO: DigiPub

PHOTO: DigiPub



Owning a dog may help older adults to meet recommended physical activity levels, research claims.

Academics at Glasgow Caledonian University have analysed data on patterns of physical activity and sedentary behaviour in 43 dog owners and 43 controls from three regions in the U.K., with participants aged 65 years and over. The researchers monitored the time spent walking moderately, time spent standing, total time spent sitting, as well as the number of times people sat down.

Accordingly, senior research fellow Dr Philippa Dall said it was found that on average, dog owners spent additional 22 minutes walking, taking an extra 2,760 steps per day compared to people who didn’t own a dog.

Read more: Are your kids really safe around your dogs?

“Over the course of a week this additional time spent walking may in itself be sufficient to meet World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations of at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity,” she said.

The researchers also found that dog owners had fewer sedentary events, or continuous periods of sitting down, than non-dog owners. Although the total time spent sitting down did not differ between the two groups.

WALTHAM Centre for Pet Nutrition researcher and study co-author Nancy Gee said the results indicate that dog ownership may play an important role in encouraging older adults to walk more.

Read more: Is your pet too fat?

She explained that having a pet may help older people achieve higher levels of physical activity or maintain their physical activity levels for a longer period of time.

“Which could improve their prospects for a better quality of life, improved or maintained cognition, and perhaps, even overall longevity,” she added.

As the study was observational, it could not establish cause and effect or allow for conclusions about whether more active people are likely to own dogs or whether dog ownership makes people more active.

The full study has been published in the journal BMC Public Health.

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