Dog ownership in later life, a great way to keep active

Related Links

Research funded by the Chief Scientist's Office and led by BESiDE's Professor Marion McMurdo with colleagues in the Universities of St. Andrews and Newcastle, looked at the link between owning a dog in later life and keeping active.  

The strong bond of affection and feelings of responsibility between a dog and their owner often means that the usual reasons for not going out for a walk such as bad weather and aches or pains are overlooked. Are older dog owners more active than those without dogs?

Around 600 older people (average age 89 years) living in the community in Tayside Scotland, from both rural and urban areas and from a variety of deprived and less deprived areas provided the answers.Their activity levles were measured for 7 consecutive days using an accelerometer, a small device that records movement.

About 9% of this group owned a dog, and when other factors such as chronic diseases such as depression and arthritis and also their past experience and attitudes towards being active were taken into consideration, dog owners were 12% more active than those who didn't own a dog, making them as active as those a decade younger.

As older people remain the most sedentary subgroup in society and research has shown that there are real benefits to being more active at this stage in life, could dog ownership or loaning be a way of motivating older people to get out walking in a way that so many find so pleasurable, with a companion at their heels.