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.
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.