Seniors, take note: Fido might be your best friend when it comes to getting more exercise.
A small study finds that owning a dog may help older adults achieve recommended amounts of physical activity.
The research included 86 British people 65 and older whose activity levels were monitored for three weeks. Half were dog owners; half were not.
On average, dog owners walked 22 minutes more and took 2,760 more steps a day compared to seniors without a dog. The findings were published June 8 in the journal BMC Public Health.
“Over the course of a week this additional time spent walking may in itself be sufficient to meet WHO [World Health Organization] recommendations of at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity,” study lead author Philippa Dall said in a journal news release. Dall is a senior research fellow at Glasgow Caledonian University in Scotland.
Dog owners also had fewer continuous periods of sitting, but the total time spent sitting did not differ between the two groups, the study found.
The findings suggest health care providers could encourage older patients to get a dog or share the care of dog to help motivate them to be more active, researchers said.
Study co-author Nancy Gee is a researcher at the Waltham Centre for Pet Nutrition in Leicestershire, England.
“Ultimately, our research will provide insights into how 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,” Gee said.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on older adults and exercise.