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The health benefits of having a dog

A pug dog and a French bulldog going for a walk on leads

Dog owners are likely to exercise more than those without dogs according to recent UK research.

The small study, published in Nature ‘Scientific Reports’, found people who own dogs are four times more likely to meet physical activity guidelines than dogless people.

Dog owners walk more often and for longer than people without pooches, the University of Liverpool researchers found.

And, the dog walking is usually in addition to other physical activities, rather than instead of them.

New Zealand physical activity guidelines are to do at least two-and-a-half hours of moderate or one-and-a-quarter hours of vigorous activity spread throughout the week.  Five hours of moderate or two-and-a-half hours of vigorous physical activity is even better.

The Ministry of Health also recommends doing muscle-strengthening activities on at least two days a week.

While the researchers say they don’t recommend getting a dog for the sole purpose of benefitting your health, they do point out that “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”.

One shortcoming of the research is the UK sample seems to have higher levels of dog walking than previous studies in other countries.  For example, 64 per cent of the UK dog owner participants reported walking their dogs at least 150 minutes per week, while only 27 per cent from a US study walked their dogs that much.

First published: November 2019

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