The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Dogs play role in getting people moving


Sure, dogs can be awesome pillows, great couch buddies and highly efficient bed warmers. But as wonderful as it is to have them around for down time, their true contribution may be found in the fact they get people up and moving.

Pooches do sleep more than half the day away — on average, healthy dogs need up to 14 hours of snooze time each day — but when they are up, they make the most of their time.

Playing, running, sniffing trails … the options for dog activity are many and most dogs take advantage of every opportunity they can to move and do things.

And when dogs are around, it’s inevitable that people have to move too, whether it’s to chase them, participate in their play, clean up after them, take them for walks or feed them, it’s impossible to sit still for too long.

Increasingly, the health benefits of pets are touted and one facet of that is the belief that in the process of keeping a pet occupied, healthy and fit, people achieve the same for themselves.

One group in particular for whom pets can play a vital role is older adults who can be vulnerable to isolation, sedentary lifestyles and deteriorating health. For these folks pets can become a boon because they provide companionship, give their owners purpose and affection, and encourage higher activity levels, all of which can lead to improved health.

Beyond emotional and psychological perks, keeping active can be critical as humans age and, as such, numerous studies have been done to evaluate the effect pets have on the activity levels of older adults. However, until recently, those studies relied primarily on self-reported information but lacked direct observation.

In a new study, British researchers tracked the activity levels of a group of 86 older adults — 43 dog owners and 43 non-dog owners — in three, one-week sessions over the course of a year.

During the monitoring periods, participants wore a device that monitored their activity levels, sedentary periods and tracked the number of steps they took each day. Participants were also asked to provide information about themselves and their dogs and to keep a diary of their awake times.

Older adults who owned dogs were found to spend an additional 22 minutes per day walking and walked 2,760 more steps per day than those that did not own dogs.

Additionally, fewer sitting events were tracked for dog owners, as compared to those who did not have dogs.

In their report, published June 9 in BioMed Central, the researchers identified the higher activity levels associated with owning a dog as large and as having the potential to improve health.

What the study points to, they concluded, is that dog ownership and dog walking do have significant influence on physical activity levels and should be included as a factor by future research on the topic of physical activity for older adults.

The activity levels dogs inject into a lifestyle may be especially important for older adults given the unique health concerns and diminished activity levels that naturally accompany aging.

However, it goes without saying that in an era where folks are increasingly more sedentary, and obesity is on the rise, anyone, at any age, can benefit from being more active.

And as masters of balancing good sleep with high activity, dogs are plenty qualified — and more than willing — to get us on our feet and moving toward a healthier lifestyle.

Sharna Johnson is always searching for ponies. You can reach her at:


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