Pet ownership comes with a lot of benefits — including an increased level of exercise.
In a large-scale study of canine owners and exercise, dog owners were four times more likely to get the recommended amount of exercise per week. The study, which was published in the journal Nature, surveyed 191 dog-owning adults, 455 non-dog-owning adults and 46 children, living in 385 households in West Cheshire, England. In addition to surveying the participants about their exercise habits, the researchers provided some of the families with activity monitors.
Dog owners were found four times more likely to get the recommended 150 minutes of weekly exercise compared to those who did not own dogs. Only 66% percent of men and 58% of women in England achieve this goal, and less than half of Americans do. On average, the dog owners in the study spent close to 300 minutes per week walking with their dogs, while those without dogs only walked about 100 minutes weekly.
The dog owners also spent slightly more time performing other types of exercise, such as jogging, cycling and hitting the gym, compared to non-dog owners. This finding indicated to the researchers that walking the dog did not replace other physical activity for pet owners.
This is not the first time that a scientific study has proven the positive effects pet ownership can have on human health. According to a 2015 study from the Centers for Disease Control, children with a dog have less anxiety than those without a dog in their home.
Although you shouldn’t run out and get a dog simply to improve your health, if pet ownership suits your lifestyle, it can be great for your overall well-being.
“A dog is not a tool just to make us more physically active,” Carri Westgarth, a lecturer in human-animal interaction at the University of Liverpool, who led the study, told The New York Times. “But if you feel that you have the time, inclination and finances to take on the responsibility of having a dog, they are a great motivator to get out walking when you otherwise would have made excuses not to.”