Health & Diet

Let Rover Walk You Healthy

By Lola Augustine Brown                                                                                                         Photo: iStock/damedeeso.
As any dog owner knows, having a furry friend brings a lot of joy into your life. Having a canine companion in your home eases feelings of loneliness, and that they need to go outside at least a couple of times a day means that you have to get outside, which can help reduce isolation. It also means that you’re forced to get a little exercise every day, rain or shine.

Photo: iStock/ands456.

That physical activity is good for you and sedentary behavior (sitting or lying while awake without doing much of anything) is not are fairly obvious, so the value of owning a dog might be thought self-evident—but the extent of that value for seniors hasn’t been fully explored.

According to study results just published in BMC Public Health, British researchers found that dog-owning seniors walked—and at a healthy moderate pace—an average of 22 minutes and 2,760 steps more than seniors who weren’t dog owners.

An extra 20 minutes of activity a day might not seem like much, but it meant that the dog-walking group studied were meeting recommended public health guidelines for physical activity, whereas non-dog owners were not. Higher levels of physical activity in seniors are known to promote longer lives, more independent living, and better health outcomes.

As a result of their study, the researchers recommended that “health promotion professionals could consider encouraging appropriate dog ownership or shared care of a dog to promote PA [physical activity] in older adults.”

If you’re not keen on getting a dog of your own, why not start walking with a friend who has one, or volunteering your time at the local SPCA? Volunteer dog walkers are always in demand.