Dogs do more than give their owners love. The furry friends help their owners get a lot more exercise than folks who don’t have dogs, according to a new study reported on by the New York Times.
The study, conducted by exercise scientists with the University of Liverpool and other institutions, found that most dog owners spend close to 300 minutes each week walking their dogs — about 200 more minutes of weekly walking than people without dogs.
Mostly because of those walks, the dog owners met or exceeded national health guidelines which call for at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise every week. The research involved about 700 participants who lived in a neighborhood near Liverpool. The humans answered questionnaires, and some were given activity monitors.
Even less expected, the study — which was published in April in the journal Scientific Reports — found that dog owners also spent slightly more time than non-dog folks engaging in activities like cycling, jogging or going to the gym. Hence, having to walk their dogs was not an excuse to omit other exercise from their weekly schedules.
The dogs also helped youngsters in these households get moving as well. Children whose families owned dogs walked about 100 minutes per week and played with their canines another 200 minutes, the Times reported. That made those kids a good bit more active than youngsters in dog-less homes.
But increased activity was not found to be true of all dog owners.
The Times reported that researchers identified a small portion of dog owners in the study who never walked their dogs — of those, almost all were young, healthy and female. The study, however, didn’t seem to ascertain why those owners didn’t walk their dogs.
Absent further research, the lead researcher of the study cautioned against people getting a dog for the sake of added exercise.
“A dog is not a tool just to make us more active,” Carri Westgarth, a human-animal interaction lecturer, told The 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.”