Owning a Dog Makes You Fitter and Healthier, Says Science

Owning a Dog Makes You Fitter and Healthier, Says Science
Owning a Dog Makes You Fitter and Healthier, Says Science

If you’re hoping to stay fit even during your golden years, get a dog.

That’s advice from a small study published on Monday in the journal BMC Public , which found that dog owners over the age of 65 get more exercise than non-dog owners.

Yahoo could not reach the study authors for comment; however, lead researcher Philippa Dall of Glasgow Caledonian University in Scotland told Market Watch, “Dog owners were found to walk over 20 minutes more a day and this additional walking was at a moderate pace.”

She added, “For good health WHO recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity a week. Over the course of a week this additional 20 minutes walking each day may in itself be sufficient to meet these guidelines. Our findings represent a meaningful improvement in physical activity achieved through dog walking.”

Dogs not only motivated their owners to get out the door, but those people also walked faster — up to three miles per hour, which is a pace considered moderate intensity, notes NPR.

However, the study left room for interpretation: Researchers aren’t sure whether dog owners tend to be more active in general or if dogs give people a reason to move more. And study subjects were all white British people so the findings aren’t necessarily widely applicable.

The benefits of owning a pet include boosting one’s self-esteem and preventing loneliness and depression, but dogs have a specifically blissful effect on human behavior.

According to a paper published in the British Journal of Health Psychology, dog owners have lower blood pressure and cholesterol and experience less medical issues. “It is possible that dogs can directly promote our well-being by buffering us from stress, one of the major risk factors associated with ill-health,” Deborah Wells, PhD, a psychologist from Queen’s University in Belfast, who reviewed the research, told the BBC.

“The ownership of a dog can also lead to increases in physical activity and facilitate the development of social contacts, which may enhance both physiological and psychological human health in a more indirect manner.”

And apparently the type of pet does matter: One recent study published in the journal Anthrozoos that compared dog and cat owners found that dog people are “significantly” more satisfied with their lives and tend to experience more positive emotions than cat folks.

Of course, there are lots of ways to get healthy, so no sweat if you’re not a dog owner or even a dog person. You’ll have to find a less adorable form of motivation.

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