The correlation between pet ownership and our mental and physical well-being has been well-documented. Sharing our lives with dogs, cats, and other companion animals makes us happy, and has health benefits like lowering stress and blood pressure. But owning a dog and taking your best friend outside for regular walks and play sessions can be particularly beneficial for sedentary older adults.
A study published in the journal BMC Public Health examined the physical activity of seniors living in a retirement community, and compared the activity levels of dog owners versus non-dog owners. 43 pairs of dog owners and non-dog owners were studied, using both activity monitoring devices and detailed questionnaires.
The results? The dog owners demonstrated a significantly greater amount of time engaging in physical activity than those seniors who did not have dogs. They spent an average of 22 additional minutes per day walking. Measured in steps, they walked around 2760 more steps per day than the non-dog owners. The walking was of a moderate intensity. The dog owners also had fewer “sitting events” than the more sedentary non-dog owners.
The happy conclusion? In addition to the many mental health benefits of dog ownership, it can be an important way to incorporate regular, healthy activity into the lives of seniors.