Are There Fitness Benefits To Owning a Dog? - Hobbster

Are There Fitness Benefits To Owning a Dog?

As I get older, I recognise that maintaining my health and fitness has become increasingly important, but also a bit harder to achieve.

With the demands of work, and everyday life  finding the time and motivation to stay active  can be challenging, and it’s easy to put it off  looking after your engine in favour of focussing on other tasks. One thing I didn’t fully appreciate back when I was looking for a puppy however was how owning a dog would positively impact my strength and fitness.

Part 1: The Challenges of Staying Fit and Healthy as We Get older

I’ve always played sports, football, cricket, athletics, martial arts, and as I entered my 40s, [more than a couple of years ago now!] I noticed that a few old back, knee, and shoulder injuries started to resurface, usually for no apparent reason. It wasn’t that I was living a sedentary lifestyle, in fact I’m very aware that physical inactivity can be a significant risk factor for chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes, and it can also have negative consequences on our physical and mental well-being. So, I know that maintaining an active lifestyle is increasingly important for me as I get older to help prevent muscle strength loss, maintain my flexibility, and it improves my cardiovascular health, and mental dexterity.

Part 2: How Having a Dog Helps Improve and Maintain Physical Fitness

Owning a dog can be a game-changer for all of us in improving our physical fitness. Dogs require regular exercise, which encourages us owners to incorporate physical activity into our daily routines, come rain or shine.

Personally, I have found that walking my dog for at least 90 minutes a day has not only improved my cardiovascular health over the years, but playing and interacting with him, and in turn fellow dog walkers, also boosts my mood and seems to reduce my stress levels. And because I have a large breed dog I’ve found that my overall core body strength has also improved considerably.

A study from 2020 The Influence of Dog Ownership on Objective Measures of Free-Living Physical Activity and Sedentary Behavior investigated the impact dog ownership had on physical activity levels and sedentary behaviour among older adults. The researchers found that older adults who owned dogs engaged in significantly more moderate to vigorous physical activity and spent less time sedentary compared to non-dog owners. Dog walking was identified as the primary contributor to the higher activity levels observed among dog owners, highlighting the role of dog ownership in promoting physical activity in older adults.

Furthermore, walking with a dog has been associated with improvements in overall well-being, including increased social interaction and reduced feelings of loneliness. A 2005 study, The Role of Pets in Enhancing Human Well-being: Effects on Social Interaction and Social Support investigated the effects of dog ownership on social interaction and social support. The researchers found that pet owners, particularly dog owners, reported higher levels of social interaction compared to non-pet owners. Dogs were found to facilitate social interactions by acting as conversation starters and providing opportunities for social engagement with other dog owners during walks or visits to dog parks.

Additionally, the presence of a dog was associated with increased social support, as owners reported feeling a sense of companionship and connection with their pets. A 2017 report Dog Ownership and the Risk of Cardiovascular Disease and Death – A Nationwide Cohort Study went even further by finding that dog ownership was associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and death, particularly among single individuals.

For me, owning a dog has had numerous fitness benefits, and he has become my most reliable fitness partner. By incorporating consistency and structure through regular walks and physical activity into my routine I’ve not only met recommended physical activity guidelines but surpassed them, improving my cardiovascular health, reduced my stress levels, and I feel like I’ve enhanced my overall well-being.

Has your fitness improved? Let me know in the comments below.

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