Seniors who own a dog benefit from their canine companions through the human-animal bond, new research reveals.
Frequent moderate and vigorous exercise, lower body mass index, fewer doctor visits and increased socialising are all benefits of dog walking among older adults.
Walking is particularly beneficial as it is low impact, doesn’t need any equipment and is mainly self-paced.
Professor Rebecca Johnson, an author of the study, said:
“Our study explored the associations between dog ownership and pet bonding with walking behavior and health outcomes in older adults.
This study provides evidence for the association between dog walking and physical health using a large, nationally representative sample.”
The study analysed data from the US 2012 Health and Retirement study.
These data were related to human-animal interactions, frequency of doctor visits, participants’ physical activity and their health outcomes.
Professor Johnson said:
“Our results showed that dog ownership and walking were related to increases in physical health among older adults.
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 results suggest that, compared to those with weaker pet bonds, people who had stronger pet bonds spent more time walking with their dogs.
Also, the research showed that dog walking offers social interactions with other pet owners and people in general.
Professor Johnson recommends that more pet-friendly policies such as dog exercise areas and dog walking trails should be encouraged by retirement communities, which in turn can improve the health benefits for their residents.
The study was published in The Gerontologist (Curl et al., 2016).
Dog owner image from Shutterstock