Dogs aren’t just man’s best friend; they also make for great activity partners. According to a new study, older adults with a canine friend spend lots more time walking than those who don’t own a dog.

The study involved 43 dog owners and 43 demographically similar non-dog-owner controls—all over the age of 65—who wore activPal™ activity monitors for three 1-week periods over a year. On average, dog owners spent an additional 22 minutes per day walking compared with the control group and averaged 2,760 additional steps per day. Dog owners had fewer continuous sitting events than the controls, though there were no significant differences in total sitting time between the groups.

“In this study, owning a dog indicated a large, potentially health-improving effect,” the researchers said. “Indeed, the size of the difference may be sufficient to meet PA guidelines on its own (22 min of moderate to vigorous activity [MVPA] every day would achieve 150 min of MVPA per week). Health promotion professionals could consider encouraging appropriate dog ownership, or shared care of a dog, to promote PA in older adults.”

The study appeared in BMC Public Health (2017; doi: 10.1186/s12889-017-4422-5).

Ryan Halvorson

Ryan Halvorson is an award-winning writer and editor. He is a long-time author and presenter for IDEA Health & Fitness Association, fitness industry consultant and former director of group training for Bird Rock Fit. He is also a Master Trainer for TriggerPoint.

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