Dog walking doesn’t just give your canine pal a workout—it has big health benefits for you, too.
A recent study by the University of Missouri and Miami University in Ohio found that seniors who walked dogs experienced greater mobility, lower body mass indexes and fewer doctor’s visits, the National Post reports.
A healthier life for you and your pooch
The Public Health Agency of Canada recommends that older adults participate in at least 150 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity aerobic activity each week, and walking a dog is a great low-impact exercise for seniors that can help them fit more moderate exercise into their lifestyle. By walking a dog a few times a week, or even daily, seniors can benefit from improved heart health and stronger bones and muscles, along with lower stress and blood pressure levels, according to Better Health Channel.
“Our results showed that dog ownership and walking were related to increases in physical health among older adults,” said MU College of Veterinary Medicine professor Rebecca Johnson. “These results can provide the basis for medical professionals to recommend pet ownership for older adults and can be translated into reduced health care expenditures for the aging population.”
The social benefits of strolling with Spot
Taking your dog for a walk around the park or block has a number of emotional and psychological benefits as well. According to the International Federation on Ageing, pet owners have better self-reported health and well-being, and many also report that their animals gave them a sense of structure and purpose to their days.
The UM study also found that dog walking can increase social activity levels. Johnson says that dogs act as “social lubrication,” according to the National Post, and explained that in turn “other people talk to people if they’re out walking their dog. They’re a bridge to other generations.”
Adding dog walking into your lifestyle
Pets can have great benefits for seniors, but of course, owning a dog isn’t ideal for everyone. However, that doesn’t mean non-pet owners have to miss out on many of the benefits of animal companions.
There are many community clubs and organizations that help connect seniors with man’s best friend. Many Chartwell retirement residences offer dog companion and therapy programs that enable seniors to enjoy the social, emotional and health benefits of animals without having to manage the demands of pet ownership.