A new study from the University of East Anglia (UEA) and Centre for Diet and Activity Research (CEDAR) at the University of Cambridge found that regularly walking a dog can boost levels of physical activity in older people; and even help combat the effects of bad weather.
More than 3000 older-adults participating in the study were asked if they owned a dog and if they walked one. They were also provided with an accelerometer, a small electronic device that constantly measured their physical activity level over a seven-day period.
Lead author of the paper, Dr Yu-Tzu Wu, said "We know that physical activity levels decline as we age, but we're less sure about the most effective things we can do to help people maintain their activity as they get older.
"We found that dog walkers were much more physically active and spent less time sitting overall. We expected this, but when we looked at how the amount of physical activity participants undertook each day varied by weather conditions, we were really surprised at the size of the differences between those who walked dogs and the rest of the study participants."
The team found that on shorter days and those that were colder and wetter, all participants tended to be less physically active and spent more time sitting. Yet dog walkers were much less impacted by these poor conditions.
Project lead Prof Andy Jones said: "We were amazed to find that dog walkers were on average more physically active and spent less time sitting on the coldest, wettest, and darkest days than non-dog owners were on long, sunny, and warm summer days. The size of the difference we observed between these groups was much larger than we typically find for interventions such as group physical activity sessions that are often used to help people remain active."
src: http://www.uea.ac.uk/about/-/dog-walking-could-be-key-to-ensuring-activity-in-later-life (University of East Anglia)