Authors of the research suggest that public health officials should introduce “dog lending” schemes so more people would benefit from the love and care a dog can give. The study involved more than 500 pensioners and it was found that those with dogs are 12% more active than those who without.
The study from St. Andrews University has found that on average, those with a pet achieved exercise levels the same as those ten years younger. Dog owners also have significantly lower levels of anxiety and depression, according to the researchers.
Previous studies considered the positive effects of having pets for the elderly, with dog owners showing fewer symptoms of depression and decline in blood pressure and heart rate.
The study published in Preventative Medicine is the first to examine in detail levels of physical activity in old people with and without dogs.
According to researcher Dr. Zhiqiang Feng, the results show that dog ownership is associated with an increased level of physical activity in people over 65 years of age. Older dog owners are 12% more active than those without on the average.
A total of 547 elderly people, with an average age of 79, in Tayside were monitored. Around 9% of them or 50 people, are dog owners, and 75% of them walked their dogs.
Over a week, participants wear accelerometer to measure their movements.
“Our results suggest that dog ownership may motivate personal activity and enable older people to overcome many potential barriers such as lack of social support, inclement weather and concerns over personal safety,” Dr. Feng said.
She said that public health officials should consider setting up schemes to lend dogs to those who don’t own one to set up walking groups and encourage the people to take more exercise.
Image: Sage Ross/Flickr
Source: The Telegraph