Study Shows That Dogs Keep Older People MOre Active During Cold Weather

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Results showed non-dog owners on average spent 30 minutes more sedentary than their pet owner counterparts, while dog owners were more active all round even when the weather was bad, with findings showing that on gloomy days dog owners clocked in more activity than non-pooch people did on brighter days.

Exercise in older people has also been linked to a reduced risk of dementia.

The entire sample spent an average of around 11 hours every day sitting and tended to be less active when it rained, was cold and the days were short.

"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", said study lead author Dr Yu-Tzu Wu, from the University of Cambridge.

They say Global Positioning System should prescribe dog walking to the elderly to help keep them fit.

Scientists from the United Kingdom have conducted a research to find out whether people over the age of 50 who owned dogs are more likely to be active than people in the same age group that do not own dogs.

If you're aged 50-plus you're more likely to get outside if you own a dog. This
REUTERS If you're aged 50-plus you're more likely to get outside if you own a dog. This

The study found that on the shortest days, and those with lower temperatures and higher precipitation, regular dog walkers recorded physical activity levels that were typically 20 per cent higher than non-dog owners and they were around 30minutes a day less sedentary.

In the worst weather, those who walked their dogs had 20 per cent higher activity levels than people who don't have a dog, and were more active for 30 minutes each day.

"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", Jones added in a university news release.

As adults age, they tend to become less active: in the United Kingdom alone it is estimated that less than half of older adults engage in the recommended weekly quota of at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity. In particular, they can't rule out the possibility of "reverse causality" - that more active people are more likely to own dogs.

The study, published today in the BMJ's Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, concluded that dog owners are driven by the need to care for their pets rather than just exercising for their own benefit. It is glaringly obvious that this can not be a good choice for anyone especially not older people who tend to have more health issues related to decreased physical activities. Dog walking groups might provide wider well-being benefits associated with increased social contact.

Borrow my Doggy, a nationwide United Kingdom network, which provides regular group dog walks for people who aren't dog owners, might be one such option, they suggest. Overall on the driest days, dog walkers were sedentary for an average of 632 minutes, compared to non-dog owners' 661 minutes.

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