Dog owners who walk their dogs are more active and have less body fat than non-owners and non-walkers, according to a study presented today at the 54th American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) Annual Meeting in New Orleans. Dog ownership was associated with higher levels of self-reported leisure-time physical activity in the study, which examined differences in physical activity, weight, status, and neighborhood, environment, walkability, and income between dog owners and non-dog owners.
Owners who walked their pets had lower Body Mass Index (BMI) scores and accelerometer (step-counting) scores 11 percent higher than those who did not walk their dogs. In the study, nearly 2,200 participants were recruited from 32 neighborhoods in the Seattle, Wash., and Baltimore, Md., regions. Neighborhoods represented high- or low-income based on census data, and were rated for high- or low-walkability. Dog ownership and minutes of dog walking were self-reported among participants. Overall physical activity was measured by seven days of step-counting and self-reported time spent walking per day for leisure.
About 28 percent of the sample was dog owners. Dog owners also were more likely to live in high vs. low income and low vs. high walkable neighborhoods. Dog owners also reported more leisure walking per day than non-owners. There were no differences in accelerometer counts between dog owners and non-owners.
Dog owners were divided into those who walked their dogs and those who did not. Dog walkers spent an average of 25 minutes/week walking the dog, and 27 percent of participants met physical activity guidelines of 150 minutes per week because of their dog walking. However, 30 percent of owners spent no time walking their dogs. Dog walkers were more likely to live in high walkable areas than non-dog walkers.
'Encouraging dog walking among owners who do not regularly walk them could promote improved health,' said Dori E. Rosenberg, lead author of the study. 'More dog walking appears to be a health benefit of living in walkable neighborhoods.'
The American College of Sports Medicine is the largest sports medicine and exercise science organization in the world. More than 20,000 international, national, and regional members are dedicated to advancing and integrating scientific research to provide educational and practical applications of exercise science and sports medicine.
The conclusions outlined in this news release are those of the researchers only, and should not be construed as an official statement of the American College of Sports Medicine.