Dog owners more physically active: proven many times over now

There is enough scientific evidence now to show that dogs can be powerful motivators to get people moving. Dog owners are more likely to take regular walks and new research has shown that dog walkers are more active overall than people who don’t have dogs. One of the studies showed that older people are more likely to take regular walks if the walking companion is canine rather than human.

Rebecca A. Johnson, director of the human-animal interaction research center at the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine said, “You need to walk, and so does your dog…It’s good for both ends of the leash.”

Last week a study from the Michigan State University researchers found that among dog owners who took their pets for regular walks, 60 percent met federal criteria for regular moderate or vigorous exercise. Nearly half of dog walkers exercised an average of 30 minutes a day at least five days a week. By comparison, only about a third of those without dogs got that much regular exercise. For the study the team tracked the exercise habits of 5,900 people in Michigan, including 2,170 who owned dogs. They found that about two-thirds of dog owners took their pets for regular walks, defined as lasting at least 10 minutes.

Study author, Mathew Reeves asked the participants whether dog walking “adds significantly to the amount of exercise you do, or is it simply that it replaces exercise you would have done otherwise?” Dr. Reeves is an associate professor of epidemiology at Michigan State. The dog walkers had higher overall levels of both moderate and vigorous physical activity than the other subjects, and they were more likely to take part in other leisure-time physical activities like sports and gardening. On average, they exercised about 30 minutes a week more than people who didn’t have dogs.

Dr. Reeves, who owns two Labrador mixes named Cadbury and Bella, was not surprised with the findings. “There is exercise that gets done in this household that wouldn’t get done otherwise…Our dogs demand that you take them out at 10 o’clock at night, when it’s the last thing you feel like doing. They’re not going to leave you alone until they get their walk in,” he said.

On the flip side all dog owners did not walk their dogs. About 40 percent said their dogs ran free in a yard, so they didn’t need walks; 11 percent hired dog walkers. Nine percent said they didn’t have time to walk their dogs, while another 9 percent said their dogs were too ill behaved to take on a walk.

Dog walking was highest among the young and educated, with 18-to-24-year-old owners twice as likely to walk the dog as those over 65, and college graduates more than twice as likely as those with less education. Younger dogs were more likely to be walked than older dogs; and larger dogs (45 pounds or more) were taken for longer walks than smaller dogs. “There is still a lot more dog walking that could be done among dog owners,” Dr. Reeves said.

In a 2008 study in Western Australia 773 adults who didn’t have dogs were followed. After a year, 92 people, or 12 percent of the group, had acquired a dog. Getting a dog increased average walking by about 30 minutes a week, compared with those who didn’t own dogs. But on closer analysis, the new dog owners had been lazy before getting a dog, walking about 24 percent less than other people without dogs. So it could be that one of the motivations for getting a dog was a desire to get more exercise. Before getting a dog, the new dog owners had clocked about 89 minutes of weekly walking, but dog ownership boosted that number to 130 minutes a week.

Yet another study involving 41,500 California residents also looked at walking among dog and cat owners as well as those who didn’t have pets. Dog owners were about 60 percent more likely to walk for leisure than people who owned a cat or no pet at all. That translated to an extra 19 minutes a week of walking compared with people without dogs.

In a 2010 study from the University of Missouri, it was seen that for getting exercise, dogs are better walking companions than humans. In a 12-week study of 54 older adults at an assisted-living home, some people selected a friend or spouse as a walking companion, while others took a bus daily to a local animal shelter, where they were assigned a dog to walk. Results revealed that the dog walkers showed a much greater improvement in fitness. Walking speed among the dog walkers increased by 28 percent, compared with just 4 percent among the human walkers.

“They help themselves by helping the dog,” said Dr. Johnson, co-author of a new book “Walk a Hound, Lose a Pound,” to be published in May by Purdue University Press. “If we’re committed to a dog, it enables us to commit to physical activity ourselves.”

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Written by

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Dr. Ananya Mandal is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.

Citations

Please use one of the following formats to cite this article in your essay, paper or report:

  • APA

    Mandal, Ananya. (2018, August 23). Dog owners more physically active: proven many times over now. News-Medical. Retrieved on February 26, 2024 from https://www.news-medical.net/news/20110314/Dog-owners-more-physically-active-proven-many-times-over-now.aspx.

  • MLA

    Mandal, Ananya. "Dog owners more physically active: proven many times over now". News-Medical. 26 February 2024. <https://www.news-medical.net/news/20110314/Dog-owners-more-physically-active-proven-many-times-over-now.aspx>.

  • Chicago

    Mandal, Ananya. "Dog owners more physically active: proven many times over now". News-Medical. https://www.news-medical.net/news/20110314/Dog-owners-more-physically-active-proven-many-times-over-now.aspx. (accessed February 26, 2024).

  • Harvard

    Mandal, Ananya. 2018. Dog owners more physically active: proven many times over now. News-Medical, viewed 26 February 2024, https://www.news-medical.net/news/20110314/Dog-owners-more-physically-active-proven-many-times-over-now.aspx.

Comments

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
Post a new comment
Post
You might also like...
Weekend warrior exercise approach comparable to regular exercise for weight loss