Owning a dog may help older adults meet physical activity levels recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO) of at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity, researchers suggest.
The study showed that dog owners aged 65 and over spent on average an additional 22 minutes walking, taking an extra 2,760 steps per day when compared to people who didn’t own a dog.
“Over the course of a week this additional time spent walking may in itself be sufficient to meet WHO recommendations of at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity,” said lead author Philippa Dall, doctoral student at Glasgow Caledonian University in Scotland.
Further, dog owners had fewer sedentary events — continuous periods of sitting down — than non-dog owners.
“Our results indicate that dog ownership may play an important role in encouraging older adults to walk more,” added Nancy Gee from WALTHAM Centre for Pet Nutrition — a Britain-based research organisation.
For the study, published in the journal BMC Public Health, the team used data on patterns of physical activity and sedentary behaviour in 43 dog owners and 43 controls, aged 65 years and over.
The researchers monitored the time spent walking moderately, time spent standing, total time spent sitting, as well as the number of times people sat down and how long they sat down for.
The study highlighted that pet ownership may help older people achieve higher levels of physical activity or maintain their physical activity levels for a longer period of time, which could improve their prospects for a better quality of life, improved or maintained cognition, and perhaps, even overall longevity.