As the population ages, and more seniors are living longer, her’s some good news for both dogs and older people.
A new study has shown that dog walking resulted in positive outcomes in the physical health of older adults.
The findings, first published in the journal Gerontologist, showed that while people as they aged were less likely to regularly walk their dogs, those who did walk their pets were more likely to meet physical activity recommendations and walk signficantly faster.
Older adults who walk dogs more physically active
Older adults who walked their dogs regularly were significantly more likely to meet the physical activity requirements than dog non-owners three years later.
Older adult dog owners who regularly walked their dog had greater functional ability than dog owners who did not walk their dog and dog non-owners. And those dog walkers 60 years or older were more likely to accumulate 30 minutes of dog walking in a 1-day period than younger adults. Researchers found that dog walking is not only beneficial for older adults, but it may also be an activity which promotes walking behavior in general.
There is also evidence that walking with a dog that is not one’s pet can motivate walking behaviour. Adults 40 years and older who walked with a trained and certified therapy dog had strong adherence to the walking intervention. In another study, participation in a weekly volunteer dog walking program at a humane society was associated with a decrease in body mass index (BMI) and an increase in motivation for overall physical activity.
Dog walking trails encouraged in retirement communities
Researchers found that dog walking was positively related to the physical health of older adults and the results can provide a basis and an impetus for medical professionals to recommend dog ownership and dog walking to their middle-aged and older patients.
These individual health benefits may translate to reduced health care expenditures for older adults at the societal level, at a time when Medicare costs are of great concern. Retirement communities could also be encouraged to incorporate more pet-friendly policies, including dog walking trails and dog exercise areas so that their residents could access the health benefits provided by interactions with dogs, and dog walking could be easier for dog owners.