As dog lovers we know that our dogs are important to both our mental and physical health—our dogs with their daily “walkathon” needs induce us to be more active, for one. In 2009, researchers from the University of Missouri found that walking dogs makes people not only more consistent about regular exercise but those who walk with a dog showed greater overall improvement in fitness than those who simply walk with two-legged companions! Another study found that dog owners actually take 25 percent more steps per day than do those without dogs. Both studies looked at adults, excluding the younger family members.
So recently, researchers in the UK set out to discover if dogs also increase the level of physical activity in children
. They based their study on 9- to 10-year-olds, from 78 schools across the UK. The young participants wore activity monitors for a week (a small instrument that was worn over the left hip on an elasticized belt). Only 10 percent of the kids had a family dog—but they recorded the most “overall activity count, counts per minute, and steps compared with non-dog owners.”
The authors of this study acknowledged the limitations of their study group, most from a less affluent urban population. Additionally, even though the dog-owning segment proved 4 percent more active, it’s far from the 25 percent recorded in the Canadian adult study. Nonetheless, their findings are important to our understanding of just how important dogs can be to all members of the family.
How has having a dog affected your exercise patterns? And parents, can you really get your kids to walk or play with the dog?