Grab the leash: Dog walkers more likely to reach exercise benchmarks

Mar 10, 2011

Man's best friend may provide more than just faithful companionship: A new study led by a Michigan State University researcher shows people who owned and walked their dogs were 34 percent more likely to meet federal benchmarks on physical activity.

The results, said epidemiologist Mathew Reeves, show that promoting dog ownership and dog walking could help many Americans – of which fewer than half meet recommended levels of leisure-time physical activity – become healthier.

"Walking is the most accessible form of physical activity available to people," Reeves said. "What we wanted to know was if dog owners who walked their were getting more physical activity or if the dog-walking was simply a substitute for other forms of activity."

The study appears in the current issue of the Journal of Physical Activity and Health.

Using data from the Michigan Behavioral Risk Factor Survey, an annual health survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Michigan Department of Community Health, Reeves and his team found that not only did owning and walking a dog impact the amount of walking a person does but also that dog walkers were more active overall.

The study showed people who walked their dogs generally walked about an hour longer per week than people who owned dogs but did not walk them.

"Obviously you would expect dog walkers to walk more, but we found people who walked their dog also had higher overall levels of both moderate and vigorous physical activities," he said. "There appears to be a strong link between owning and walking a dog and achieving higher levels of physical activity, even after accounting for the actual dog walking."

The study analyzed the amount of leisure-time physical activity a person gets; examples include sports participation, exercise conditioning and recreational activities such as walking, dancing and gardening. Public health benchmarks call for at least 150 minutes of such activity a week.

"There is no magic bullet in getting people to reach those benchmarks," Reeves said. "But owning and walking a dog has a measurable impact."

He also pointed out the social and human/animal bond aspects of owning a dog that has been shown to have a positive impact on quality of life. And since only about two-thirds of dog owners reported regularly walking their dogs, Reeves said dog ownership represents a opportunity to increase participation in walking and overall physical activity.

"The findings suggest public health campaigns that promote the responsible ownership of a dog along with the promotion of dog may represent a logical opportunity to increase physical activity," he said.

Other findings in the study revealed: Middle-age people have the least amount of time to walk their dogs; younger and older people get the most benefit; dogs 1 year old or younger were more likely to be walked than older dogs; and larger breed dogs (those more than 45 pounds) were walked for a longer duration than smaller dogs.

Explore further: Many people who drink a lot aren't alcoholics: CDC

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Kids walking to, from school are healthier

Aug 19, 2005

Children who walk to school have higher overall daily physical activity levels compared with those who travel by car, bus or train, a British study says.

Physical activity -- not just a 'walk in the park'

Jun 10, 2008

People with more green space in their living environment walk and cycle less often and for shorter amounts of time, according to new research published today in the open access journal BMC Public Health.

Young dog owners more physically active

Feb 08, 2011

They’re furry, fun loving and could be the key to getting your sedentary teen off the couch, finds a new study on dog ownership and adolescent physical activity.

Walking associated with lower stroke risk in women

Apr 06, 2010

Women who walked two or more hours a week or who usually walked at a brisk pace (3 miles per hour or faster) had a significantly lower risk of stroke than women who didn't walk, according to a large, long-term study reported ...

Recommended for you

US seniors' health poorest, global survey shows

2 hours ago

(HealthDay)— Seniors in America have more chronic health problems and take more medications than seniors in 10 other industrialized countries do, according to a new global survey. The United States also ...

New survey of employers about the health insurance market

4 hours ago

A new nationally representative survey of employers—the largest purchasers of health care in the country— shows that most are unfamiliar with objective metrics of health plan quality information. The survey, conducted ...

Running really can keep you young, study says

7 hours ago

If you are an active senior who wants to stay younger, keep on running. A new study involving the University of Colorado Boulder and Humboldt State University shows that senior citizens who run several times ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.