Dogs help older adults stay active

Adults walk more if they own a dog. (PRNewsfoto/Mars Petcare)
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(Welcome to the weekly pet column of Pet Connection Programs Inc. of Marilla, N.Y. A new article is posted each week, so be sure to check back on a regular basis!)

For older adults, owning a dog increases the likelihood of achieving World Health Organization (WHO) recommended levels of physical activity, according to a study published recently. Physical activity is known to reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, multiple cancers and depression. This research adds evidence to show that owning a pet dog can help support health as people age.

“We all know that as we get older we tend to slow down a little,” says Professor Daniel Mills, project leader. “By staying active we can improve our health and other aspects of our quality of life. Factors driving higher levels of physical activity in adults are not well defined. We were interested in assessing whether dog ownership has the potential to improve the health of older adults though increased activity.”     

The University of Lincoln and Glasgow Caledonian University Study, published in BMC Public Health, was conducted in collaboration with the WALTHAM Centre for Pet Nutrition, part of Mars Petcare and funded through an ISAZ/WALTHAM award. Researchers used a specific type of activity monitor for the first time to objectively gather activity data of dog-owning and non-dog owning study participants.

“Dog owners were found to walk over 20 minutes more a day and this additional walking was at a moderate pace,” says Dr Philippa Dall, lead researcher. “For good health, WHO recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity a week. Over the course of a week this additional 20 minutes walking each day may in itself be sufficient to meet these guidelines. Our findings represent a meaningful improvement in physical activity achieved through dog walking.”

“This study indicates that dog ownership may play an important role in walking among older adults. We found an objective method to monitor activity worked very well and recommend that future research in this field also include dog ownership and dog walking as important variables to consider,” says WALTHAM researcher Nancy Gee, a co-author of the study. “Even if dog ownership is not the focus, it may represent an important factor that should not be ignored.”
— PRNewswire

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