A canine companion brings at least one important health benefit: getting more exercise.
In news that will surprise few owners, researchers found that those with pooches are much more likely to meet weekly targets for the amount of time spent engaging in physical activity.
The UK government’s guidelines recommend adults get at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity exercise, such as brisk walking or cycling. But only 66 per cent of men and 58 per cent of women in England do so.
Carri Westgarth (2019) at the University of Liverpool, UK, and her colleagues surveyed 385 households in north-west England, which included 191 dog-owning adults, 455 adults without dogs, and 46 children.
To check the accuracy of self-reported figures, 28 of the adults also wore an accelerometer for a week to track activity levels.
According to the self-reported data, 80 per cent of dog owners met the weekly physical activity target, compared with 62 per cent of non-dog owners. The accelerometers showed that dog walkers clocked up an average of 2000 more steps and 13 more minutes of physical activity a day than non-dog owners.
The results suggest a bigger effect on activity of having a dog than other studies in the US and Australia. That might be because UK weather is worse, and having a dog is the best motive to get out, says Westgarth.
New Scientist. (2019) Exercise Targets are a Walk in the Park for Dog Owners. New Scientist. 27 April 2019, pp.18.
Westgarth, C., Christley, R.M., Jewell, C., German, A.J., Boddy, L.M. & Christian, H.E. (2019) Dog owners are more likely to meet physical activity guidelines than people without a dog: An investigation of the association between dog ownership and physical activity levels in a UK community. Scientific Reports. 9(1):5704. doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-41254-6.