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According to a new study on dogs and exercise, dog owners are likely in better shape than their non-dog owning counterparts.

Thousands of households were involved in the British study which showed a connection between owning a dog and how much a person exercises. Results from the study also suggested that dog owners are four times more likely to meet today’s physical activity guidelines than their counterparts.

Study methodology

Past studies which found a relationship between dog ownership and regular walking used small sample sizes and untrustworthy recollections of participant’s exercise history. Furthermore, many of these studies failed to rule out the possibility that walking a dog displaced other forms of physical activity.

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For the study, they began asking families in the area about their lives and pets in a neighbourhood near Liverpool. Researchers studied only a single community since participants would share sidewalks, parks, and other environmental factors that might affect their tendency to exercise.

Nearly 700 people from 385 neighbouring households partook in the study, half of them women and most middle-aged. Children were also included as participants. A third of the participants owned a dog. Participants were asked to fill out a questionnaire and some were assigned activity monitors.

“It was immediately apparent that people who owned dogs walked far more often than those without dogs,” says Carri Westgarth, a lecturer in human-animal interaction at the University of Liverpool and leader of the study.

Because health guidelines call for 150 minutes of exercise per week, walking can be quite important.  According to both questionnaires and activity monitors, most dog owners spent almost 300 minutes per week walking with their dogs and 200 more minutes of walking per week than people without dogs. Walking a dog leads dog owners to more than meet health guidelines.

Dog owners even spent a bit more time exercising without their dogs. Similarly, children whose families owned dogs exercised considerably more than other children.

Future questions

Some worthwhile questions still need addressing. For instance, why do some young and healthy dog owners refuse to walk their dogs? Is the dog’s safety a concern? Are some dog owners unable to control their animals? Separately, are active people more likely to own dogs or does a dog influence a person’s exercise routine? How might the dog’s features impact the owner’s willingness to walk?

Final comments

As many of you might imagine, walking with a companion is often more appealing than walking alone. There is just something about a furry friend sticking by your side, egging you on, and comforting you that makes exercise all the more worthwhile.  Dogs are a great workout buddy. Consider walking your dog more often. Exercising with your dog can extend the lives of you and your furry friend.

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