Dogs really help people stay fit, new study shows

As if dogs weren’t precious enough, they also help with our fitness — new research shows that dog owners are 400% more likely to meet recommended physical activity guidelines.

Dog owners were found to walk their dogs for a median 7.0 times per week (range 0–32), covering a median total of 220.0mins per week.

The fact that dog owners tend to do more exercise shouldn’t really surprise anyone — whether you like it or not, you have to go walk the dog. However, previous research mostly focused on a single household member, and it’s not exactly clear whether time spent dog walking replaces other physical activity. In the latest study, researchers analyzed just what kind of a difference having a dog really makes — fitness-wise.

Carri Westgarth and colleagues from the University of Liverpool assessed the self-reported physical activity of 385 households in the, UK (191 dog owning adults, 455 non-dog owning adults and 46 children). Researchers also tracked 28 adults with an accelerometer, to have a confirmation for the total physical activity.

They found that dog owners walk more frequently and for longer periods than non-dog owners — and this activity doesn’t replace other physical activities. In other words, it’s simply extra physical activity. Researchers were able to confirm the health-enhancing potential of dog ownership.

“Evidence suggests dog ownership is associated with lower risk of death, and a lower risk of cardiovascular conditions at least in single-person households, where the participant may be more highly obligated to dog walk,” the study reads.

For many people, this could be the difference between healthy and unhealthy levels of exercise. Researchers recommend doing at least 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity per week. However, less than 50% of adults in the USA actually achieve this. England fares a bit better, but still, only 66% of men and 58% of women achieve this bare minimum goal. This study found that dog owners were four times more likely to achieve this goal. Furthermore, the benefits extend to all household members involved in dog-walking.

The results are so positive that researchers actually call for policy to support more dog ownership, considering the health benefits associated with it.

“Dog ownership is associated with more recreational walking and considerably greater odds of meeting physical activity guidelines. Policies regarding public spaces and housing should support dog ownership due to physical activity benefts,” the team writes.

So if you’re struggling to lose weight or be physically active, there’s a woofing solution to that.

The study “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” has been published in Scientific Reports.


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