BALTIMORE – When beginning a new exercise program, many people decide to recruit an “exercise buddy” to keep each other accountable. According to a study presented at American College of Sports Medicine’s 57th Annual Meeting in Baltimore, another type of friend can help increase physical activity – man’s best friend.
A study of 916 participants conducted at The George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services reveals that dog walking is associated with a favorable risk profile among middle-aged adults. The research team looked at non-dog owners, dog owners who walk their dogs, and dog owners who do not walk their dog. Those who regularly walk their four-legged pals reported fewer hours of sitting per day, lower body mass index (BMI), lower tobacco use, fewer chronic conditions and depressive symptoms, and greater social support.
“Unfortunately, the majority of American adults do not meet recommended levels of physical activity, and that is a major cause of the obesity problem in the U.S.,” said lead researcher Cindy Lentino, M.S. “Dog walking should be encouraged among community members of all ages as a method of promoting and sustaining a healthy and active lifestyle.”
Lentino and her colleagues note that novel and innovative approaches are needed to increase physical activity levels. Potential canine “exercise buddies” are in abundance, considering there are 72 million dogs living in U.S. households as well as a large number of dogs living in shelters, foster homes and rescue groups.
Several studies have demonstrated that dog ownership can provide wellness benefits such as lowering levels of mental stress and feelings of loneliness, lowering blood and cholesterol levels, speedier recoveries following a heart attack, and even cancer detection. Additional literature suggests that dog walking provides social support such as helping owners feel safer and promoting social interactions. Moreover, dog walking helps fight canine weight problems and physically active dogs tend to be healthier dogs and well-balanced pets.
Lentino’s research team concludes that dog walking should be encouraged in communities and funding should be reserved for innovative programs that incorporate dog walking. The study further suggests more interventions targeting dog-owners who don’t walk their dog and developing dog-walking initiatives at the local and federal levels.
The American College of Sports Medicine is the largest sports medicine and exercise science organization in the world. More than 35,000 international, national and regional members and certified professionals are dedicated to advancing and integrating scientific research to provide educational and practical applications of exercise science and sports medicine.
The conclusions outlined in this news release are those of the researchers only, and should not be construed as an official statement of the American College of Sports Medicine.