As if you needed another reason to adopt a new furry friend, research has surfaced showing that owning a dog can potentially improve your overall health, with dog owners walking about 20 minutes more each day compared to people without canine counterparts.
The study, published by BMC Public Health, looked at 43 dog owners and 43 people without dogs—all over the age of 65. Each participant wore an activity tracker that provided continuous tracking for three-week-long periods, with researchers studying the participants for an entire year in total.
It is the first study to compare dog owners and non-dog owners using activity trackers instead of the previously used—and often unreliable—self-reported data.
Ultimately, the study found that the dog owners walked an average of 23 minutes more each day, and took an additional 2,760 more steps. Further, the dog owners reported having fewer prolonged periods of sitting down.
What was more important, however, was the pace at which the dog owners walked. Much of the extra walking was done at a moderate speed and was vigorous enough to be counted toward weekly physical activity requirements. As the World Health Organization recommends at least 150 minutes of physical activity each week for the average adult, an extra 20 minutes of moderately-paced walking every day could potentially have a huge effect.
Unfortunately, the study was not a true, randomized clinical trial—and therefore can’t accurately determine whether owning a dog makes a person more active, or if active people are just more likely to have a canine running buddy. Also, since the participants were all white, British and over the age of 65, these results can’t really be applied to the general population.
However, the study didn’t definitively show that owning dogs doesn’t improve fitness… and therefore, it’s just another reason to take the plunge on adopting a new pet.
Emma Korstanje is a freelance journalist based out of Athens, GA.