Numerous studies conducted in recent years show that dog owners have overall better health and well-being than people without dogs.
Owning a dog gives you more than just a four-legged friend to hang out with; study after study shows that dogs improve the health, mental well-being, and overall happiness of their owners – adults and their kids.
As we’ve discussed many times before, studies have shown that dogs lower the stress levels of both adults and children. They’ve also been proven to and reduce the risk of asthma in kids and lower blood pressure.
Research has also revealed that dog owners are more active than non-dog owners. They take more steps per day, thanks to regular walks and playtime activities. A recent study showed that dog owners take an average of 2,760 more steps a day than people without dogs; this amounts to an added 23 minutes of moderate exercise performed daily.
Another study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health demonstrated that people with dogs are significantly more active in the winter months, when most other people’s resilience to the bad weather keeps them sedentary.
That study looked at over 3,000 participants and took a close look at their activity levels based on type of weather, temperature, and duration of the day.
Non-dog owners were shown to be stationary for an average of 30 minutes longer than dog owners. During colder, shorter days and/or days with precipitation, that disparity was significantly larger.
Dog walkers were on average active for 12 minutes more per day on the wettest days, and on the driest days, and for 29 more minutes per day on dry days.
So even on the coldest, wettest, and darkest days, dog owners are getting outside and remaining physically active. This is thanks to the fact that their dogs’ crucial needs outweighs the owners’ lesser desire for physical comfort.
All this information could have important implications about how to motivate people to remain active as they age.
Traditionally, physical activity intervention programs try to motivate people to stay fit by making them focus on themselves. But these studies go to show that perhaps focusing on the needs of one’s loved companion may go a lot further in motivating people.
Being driven by needs higher than one’s own – such as a dog’s need to go to the bathroom, exercise, and feel happy while running and playing – may just be the potent motivator needed to get aging people consistently motivated to remain active, even when their bodies are slowing down.
Researchers are hoping to find a way to tap into this motivating factor when designing exercise interventions in the future.
Companion animals for the aging would also increase their overall happiness, by reducing stress, providing a sense of purpose, and easing loneliness.