Among adults 60 years of age or more, walking is the most common form of leisure-time physical activity because it is self-paced, low-impact and doesnâ€™t require special equipment. And researchers have determined that older adults who combine walking with dog ownership are healthier and happier.
Dog-walking is associated with lower body mass index, fewer doctor visits, more frequent exercise and an increase in social benefits for seniors, according to findings of a study by the University of Missouri.
The national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that adults of all ages should engage in 150 or more minutes of moderate physical activity per week.That was a connection researchrs explored â€œbetween dog ownership and pet-bonding with walking and health outcomes in older adults,â€ said Rebecca Johnson, a professor at the universityâ€™s College of Veterinary Medicine and the Sinclair School of Nursing.
The study analyzed 2012 data from the Health and Retirement study sponsored by the National Institute on Aging and the Social Security Administration. The study included data about human-animal interactions, physical activity, frequency of doctor visits and health outcomes of the participants.
â€œOur results showed that dog ownership and walking were related to increases in physical health among older adults,â€ said Johnson, who also serves as director of the Research Center for Human-Animal Interaction at the university. â€œThese results can be translated into reduced healthcare expenditures for the aging population.â€
Results from the study also indicated that people with higher degrees of pet bonding were more likely to walk their dogs and to spend more time walking their dogs each time than those who reported weaker bonds. Additionally, the study showed that pet walking offers a means to socialize with pet owners and others.
Retirement communities also could be encouraged to incorporate more pet-friendly policies such as including dog-walking trails and dog exercise areas so that their residents could have access to the health benefits, Johnson said.