Quantifying the Benefits of Owning a Dog

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Just how good is dog walking for you? Older dog owners who walked their dogs at least once a day got 20 percent more physical activity than people without dogs, a British study found, and spent 30 fewer minutes a day being sedentary, on average. Regular exercise has well-known benefits for health and longevity.

For the study, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, researchers used data from 3,123 men and women, median age around 70, living in Norfolk who wore an activity monitor for seven days. The data recorded was crosschecked against meteorological information.

All participants tended to be less active on short winter days when it was cold and wet. But regular dog walkers experienced less of a dip in physical activity and got more exercise on bad weather days than those who were not dog owners did on the warmest days of the year.

“There might be two-way causality here, where people who want to be physically active get dogs,” said Andy Jones, a professor of public health at University of East Anglia and the study’s senior author. “But qualitative studies have shown that having a dog gives you incentive to get out, when the easier option is to stay indoors.”